DUBAI - Amnesty International accused Yemeni rebels on Thursday of "deliberate militarisation of hospitals" in the battleground city of Hodeidah and called on warring parties to protect civilians.
The human rights group said the Huthi Shiite rebels recently stationed fighters on the roof of a hospital in the May 22 district of the Red Sea port city, calling the action a "stomach-churning development".
It said the move risked "devastating consequences" for the hospital's staff and patients given the repeated use by the Saudi-led coalition supporting the government of air strikes on civilian areas.
"The presence of Huthi fighters on the hospital's roof violates international humanitarian law, but this violation does not make the hospital and the patients and medical staff lawful targets for Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition air strikes," Samah Hadid, Amnesty's Middle East campaigns director Samah Hadid said.
"Anyone attacking a hospital under these conditions risks responsibility for war crimes.
A medical source said on Wednesday that the rebels had forced medical staff out of the May 22 Hospital - one of Hodeidah's main medical facilities - and posted snipers on the roof.
Pro-government forces pressed closer to the heart of Hodeidah, whose port serves as the entry point for nearly 80 per cent of commercial imports and nearly all UN-supervised humanitarian aid.
Aid groups have appealed to both the rebels and the coalition to allow civilians to escape the city of some 600,000 people.
Amnesty warned that civilians in Hodeidah will "pay a terrible price" unless the warring parties act immediately to protect them from the fighting.
The rebels have controlled Hodeidah since 2014 when they overran the capital Sanaa and then swept through much of the rest of the country triggering Saudi-led military intervention the following year and a devastating war of attrition.
Government forces backed by significant numbers of United Arab Emirates ground troops launched an offensive to retake the city in June.