x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Forces surround Yemen hospital

The Iranian Hospital in the Yemeni capital Sanaa was sealed off by security forces today amid allegations staff have been aiding Shiite rebels.

The Iranian Hospital in the Yemeni capital Sanaa was sealed off by security forces today amid allegations staff have been aiding Shiite rebels fighting the army in the north, an AFP reporter said. Security forces surrounded the Iran-funded hospital and prevented patients from entering the five-storey building, which employs 120 people including eight Iranians, the reporter said. Hospital staff are suspected of involvement in intelligence gathering for Shiite Iran and of helping channel funds to the Zaidi rebels, said a government official who asked not to be named.

The Yemeni authorities accuse "certain parties in Iran" of supporting the rebels, a charge Tehran denies while expressing sympathy for the rebels' cause. Officials at the Ministry of Waqf (religious endowments), which owns the building, said that the hospital is to be closed down because of a delay in the payment of an accumulated rent of $28 million. The hospital offered patients services at prices that are usually lower than public and private institutions.

The rebels, also known as Huthis, have been clashing with government forces on and off in the rugged northern mountains of the Saada province and surrounding areas since 2004. They complain of being marginalised and oppressed by the government, which accuses them of seeking to reinstate a form of clerical rule that ended in a republican coup in 1962. *AFP