Looking to blackmail hospital owners into paying turf dues in Yemen's Sanaa, the Iran-backed Houthi militias shut down more than eight government and private hospitals.
Other than stripping entire hospitals from practicing licenses, Houthi gunmen closed over 25 operation wards and intensive care units in the militia-run capital, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Hospital boards and staffers, at gunpoint, were forced to pay astronomical tariffs between a million and three million Yemeni rials to the group to keep their services open.
Most of the money, according to sources, has gone into the pockets of Houthi leaders.
Medical sources pointed out that the Houthi inspection targeted independent hospitals only, while other facilities protected by some of the group's top leaders were spared.
Militiamen while extorting hospitals were accompanied by committees from the Houthis' self-proclaimed Health Ministry, which is run by Taha al-Mutawakkil.
The eight shuttered hospitals are Sawan Hospital, Al Hilal Al Abyadh Hospital, Al Khazzan Hospital, Al Salam Specialized Hospital, Majali Hospital, Al Izaam Hospital, Hadda Hospital and Al Thahabi Hospital.
According to a health ministry statement, they were closed and stripped of their practicing licenses for allegedly failing the Houthi imposed health inspection.
Observers note that Houthis have found in squeezing hospitals for exorbitant financial levies a new way to collect funds for their war effort, which doubles the already high fees on war-ailed Yemeni patients.
"Even small-scale clinics and pharmacies in Sanaa have been the victim of Houthi bullying and blackmail," Sanaa-based activists, who requested anonymity, said.
In turn, an official at a government hospital in Sanaa strongly condemned the "closure of dozens of private hospitals without any justification."
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said that the private health sector in the areas controlled by insurgency has been a prime target for the militias, which either resort to looting, pillaging, extortion or closure.