Yemen: US-backed War Crime Kills Civilians, Destroys World Heritage Site

June 14th, 2015 - by admin

Euronews & & The Associated Press – 2015-06-14 00:39:35

Saudi Strikes Kill Five Civilians, Destroy World Heritage Site in Yemeni Capital

Euronews (June 12, 2015) — World heritage body UNESCO has condemned the destruction of The Old City of Sanaa — “one of the world’s oldest jewels” of Islamic culture in an air strike in Yemen. The United Nations cultural agency condemned “severe damage” caused to heritage sites in Yemen, such as Sanaa’s old city, during intense bombing. At least six people have been killed and buildings destroyed in Sanaa’s Old City after a Saudi led coalition air strike on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saudi Strikes Kill Five Civilians, Destroy
World Heritage Site in Yemeni Capital

Jason Ditz /

SANAA (June 12, 2015) — Recent concerns about sites from antiquity being damaged in war have mostly centered around ISIS occupations in Syria, but attention quickly turned south today with news that the World Heritage Site in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa was the target of multiple airstrikes.

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova today said she was “profoundly distressed” by the news that one of the oldest urban landscapes in the region came under fire from Saudi warplanes, and locals reported at least five civilians who lived in the area around the ancient neighborhood were killed.

Sanaa’s old city dates back 2,500 years, and is home to one of the oldest surviving mosques in the world. The extent of the damage is unclear, but several locals have released images showing some of the ancient buildings reduced to rubble in the wake of the strike.

The extensive damage will likely continue to grow in the weeks and months to come, as most of the buildings in this ancient neighborhood were cemented together, and the fall of some is putting new pressure on the foundations of others, causing cracks across the area.

Saudi-led Airstrikes Destroy
Part of Yemeni Capital’s Old Center,
A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ahmed Al-Haj / Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (June 12, 2015) — Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen destroyed historic houses on Friday in the center of the capital, Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site. Rescue teams digging through the debris pulled the bodies of six civilians from under the rubble.

The bombing drew swift condemnation from the U.N. cultural agency, whose chief expressed sorrow at the loss of human life and the destruction of priceless architectural heritage.

Yemen’s conflict has left millions of the Arab world’s poorest nation in dire need of humanitarian assistance in just about everything — from fuel to water, food, electricity and medical supplies — as civilians are increasingly caught in the crossfire.

Also, early on Friday, random shelling killed 12 civilians in the southwestern city of Taiz, which witnessed some of the fiercest battles between rebels and southern fighters, witnesses and officials said.

In the Sanaa airstrikes, residents initially believed the warplanes had targeted a house occupied by a senior rebel commander, but officials and witnesses later said there were no Shiite rebels among the victims.

The impact of the missiles flattened at least three houses and caused cracks in surrounding buildings, which are cemented to one another, leaving large sections of the old city’s district at the risk of collapse.

At a destroyed four-story building, an Associated Press reporter saw a pile of bricks, dust and wood mingled with clothes, kitchenware and water tanks, which are traditionally kept on roofs. An adjacent three-story building was split in half, wooden window frames dangling from the upper floors. Rescue workers were covered with dust as they searched for victims.

Most of the old city’s three-to-four-story buildings had been emptied out weeks ago, as their residents left in fear of the airstrikes. The Saudi-led coalition launched the campaign in March, in an effort to halt the power grab by Yemen’s Shiite rebels, known as Houthis. U.N.-brokered peace talks are due to start end of the week in Geneva in an attempt to end the conflict.

Mohammed al-Raddni, a neighbor whose grandfather lives next door to one of the destroyed buildings, said those killed in Friday’s airstrikes included three women and two men, one of whom was a doctor. A 16-year-old teenager remains under the rubble, said al-Raddni.

“What do they want from us? This is unfair. Why don’t they go search for Houthis somewhere else,” shouted Zahwa Hammoud, an elderly woman dressed in traditional Yemeni clothing, as she looked at the damage.

Hammoud, one of few residents remaining in the neighborhood, said there was a “deafening sound that made me feel my ears exploding” when the missiles struck. A police car with a loudspeaker urged residents to stay away from the rubble.

Online activists posted photographs of the damaged parts of the old city of Sanaa, known as al-Qasimi. The old city dates back 2,500 years and is one of the most popular and historic tourist attractions in the Yemeni capital, famous for its decorated buildings made of packed earth with burnt brick towers.

UNESCO’s general director condemned the attack that targeted “the world’s oldest jewels of Islamic urban landscape” and expressing sorrow for the loss of lives.

“I am shocked by the images of these magnificent many-storied tower-houses and serene gardens reduced to rubble,” Irina Bokova said in the statement. She urged the warring parties to preserve the heritage of Yemen, which “bears the soul of the Yemeni people” and “belongs to all humankind.”

UNESCO said that since the beginning of the conflict, several historic monuments across Yemen have suffered damage. It said that on June 9, the Ottoman era al-Owrdhi historical compound, outside the walls of Sanaa’s old city, was severely damaged.

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