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Saudi airstrike hits Yemen World Heritage site

The bombs and missiles of the Saudi-led Arab coalition on Friday killed civilians in Yemen and for the first time hit the historic Old City of the capital.

Saudi airstrike hits Yemen World Heritage site
Yemenis search for survivors under the rubble of old buildings allegedly destroyed by an airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, 12 June 2015. A Saudi-led airstrike killed seven civilians and destroyed historic houses in the old quarter of Sana'a on 12 June, two days ahead of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. The air raid was the first in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Yemen's rebel-held capital since the coalition started its air campaign in March against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels [Credit: EPA/YAHYA ARHAB]
Three buildings of a World Heritage site were razed to the ground and a fourth collapsed. UNESCO condemned the act immediately.

''I am profoundly distressed by the loss of human lives as well as by the damage inflicted on one of the world's oldest jewels of Islamic urban landscape,'' UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement. Six people were killed, none of whom armed.

Giovanni Puglisi, head of the Italian national commission for UNESCO, noted that ''we are not facing the Islamic State (ISIS) bandits destroying cultural heritage. We are dealing with a Saudi-led coalition that, in reaction to terrorists' acts of war and as part of a scorched earth policy, destroy the cultural heritage of the historic Yemeni city. This is much more serious and worrisome than others due to its unusual nature.'

The Saudi missile came at dawn in the center of the Qasimi area with its thousands of inhabitants. The area has homes over 2,500 years old, about a hundred Arabesque mosques and evocative hammams.

''It was a deafening sound, a horrible whistle,'' said people on the scene. There was no blast, however, and the disaster could have been much worse. The missile did not explode, and thus brought down only the buildings it directly hit.

The number of casualties is also very low: six dead (four women and two men buried under the rubble). On Thursday, a Saudi bomb hit a bus, burning over 20 people alive.

UNESCO had already in May spoken out about the ''serious damage'' caused by the bombing of the Old City in Sanaa and called on those involved in the conflict not to involve Yemen's cultural heritage in the fighting.

The appeal does not seem to have influenced Riyadh's operations since the beginning of the Saudi-led (Sunni) coalition actions against Shia Houthi rebels on March 26.

Saudi Arabia aims to halt the advance of the Houthi rebels, who since September 24, 2014 have controlled the capital and used it as a base to achieve military victories across large areas of the north, west and center of the country.

In the south the rebels had begun to get the upper hand and at this point Riyadh - where Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has taken refuge - began its airstrikes.

In just over two months, over a thousand civilians including 234 children have died under the bombs, and a million people have been forced to flee their homes.

Author: Rossella Benevenia | Source: ANSAmed [June 12, 2015]

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