A hospital in Yemen supported by Save the Children was hit Tuesday by a deadly airstrike that charity officials blamed on the Saudi-led coalition, an attack carried out on the war’s fourth anniversary.
At least seven people were killed, including four children, when a missile struck a gasoline station only yards from the entrance to the Kitaf hospital in rural northwest Yemen about 60 miles from the city of Saada, Save the Children officials said.
The attack damaged the waiting rooms and occurred at the busiest time of the morning for the hospital, said Jason Lee, Save the Children’s deputy director in Yemen.
He said the organization had lodged a strong protest over the airstrike with the Saudi-led authorities, who had the coordinates of the hospital and should have known to avoid the area.
“This is a gross violation of humanitarian law,” Mr. Lee said in a telephone interview from Sana, the Yemen capital.
In a statement, Carolyn Miles, the charity’s president and chief executive, who recently visited Save the Children’s health facilities in Yemen, said: “We are shocked and appalled by this outrageous attack.”
There was no immediate comment from the Saudi-led coalition, which controls the airspace over Yemen. Despite repeated Saudi pledges to honor prohibitions on attacking civilian targets, the conflict has been punctuated by airstrikes on hospitals, markets and public gatherings, including funerals and weddings.
One of the worst airstrikes came last August, when at least 29 children under the age of 15 were killed on a school bus. That attack contributed to what already was growing outrage over Yemen’s civilian casualties, and it played a role in mobilizing congressional efforts to halt American military support for Saudi Arabia’s war effort.
While the Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia’s adversaries in the war, have also been criticized for targeting civilians and recruiting child soldiers, humanitarian groups and the United Nations have attributed many of the civilian casualties to the Saudi-led coalition.
Data released earlier this month by the United Nations refugee agency indicated that more than 4,800 civilian deaths and injuries were reported in Yemen last year — an average of 93 civilian casualties per week. The agency said 30 percent were killed or injured inside their homes and a fifth of all casualties were inflicted on children.
Saudi Arabia led a military campaign it called Operation Decisive Storm that intervened in Yemen around March 26, 2015 with a bombing campaign to oust the Houthis, who had evicted the Saudi-backed government and occupied much of the country. The Saudis have accused Iran, their regional rival, of supporting the Houthis.
Despite Saudi predictions of a quick victory, the conflict has turned into what the United Nations has called the world’s worst man-made humanitarian disaster.
Last month, the United Nations relief agency said “the severity of needs is deepening” in Yemen, where 24 million people, close to 80 percent of the population, need protection and assistance, and famine threatens hundreds of thousands.
“The escalation of the conflict since March 2015 has dramatically aggravated the protection crisis in which millions face risks to their safety and basic rights,” the relief agency said in its 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview.