Saudi-led war­planes hit ‘jewel’ of Is­lamic cul­ture in Sanaa

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

An air strike by the Saudi-led coali­tion on the Ye­meni cap­i­tal’s old quar­ter killed five peo­ple Fri­day as it de­stroyed homes in the cen­turies-old her­itage site UNESCO calls a “jewel” of Is­lamic cul­ture.

Sanaa’s old city has been in­hab­ited for more than 2,500 years and was a ma­jor cen­ter for the prop­a­ga­tion of Is­lam, boasting more than 100 mosques, 14 public baths and more than 6,000 houses built be­fore the 11th cen­tury.

It was in­scribed on UNESCO’s World Her­itage List in 1986.

Res­i­dents said the pre-dawn strike was the first di­rect hit on old Sanaa since the launch of the bomb­ing cam­paign against Huthi rebels in late March.

A mis­sile hit the Qas­simi neigh­bor­hood with­out ex­plod­ing, but killed five res­i­dents, in­clud­ing a woman and a child, and de­stroyed three three-storey houses, medics and wit­nesses said.

The tar­get of the raid was not im­me­di­ately clear amid con­flict­ing state­ments from res­i­dents about whether rebels had oc­cu­pied one of the houses.

UNESCO direc­tor gen­eral Irina Bokova said she was “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.

She said she was “shocked by the images of th­ese mag­nif­i­cent many-sto­ryed tower-houses and serene gar­dens re­duced to rub­ble.”

“The his­toric value and mem­o­ries en­shrined in th­ese sites have been ir­repara­bly dam­aged or de­stroyed.”

“This de­struc­tion will only ex­ac­er­bate the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion and I re­it­er­ate my call to all par­ties to re­spect and pro­tect cul­tural her­itage in Ye­men,” she said.

Naji Saleh Thawaba, head of Ye­men’s Gen­eral Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Preser­va­tion of the His­toric Cities of Ye­men also con­demned the attack.

“I never imag­ined that this site could one day be­come a tar­get; even if there were en­emy (po­si­tions) in the area, it should never be a tar­get for air strikes,” he told AFP.

The up­per sto­rys of houses ris­ing above ground floors con­structed of stone are built of rammed earth and burnt brick, with each build­ing dec­o­rated with geo­met­ric pat­terns of fired bricks and white gyp­sum, in­spired by tra­di­tional Is­lamic art.

The old city has al­ready suf­fered some dam­age from air strikes on nearby tar­gets, in­clud­ing the de­fense min­istry, prompt­ing a protest from UNESCO in May.

Ear­lier this month, UNESCO also con­demned air strikes that hit the an­cient Great Dam of Marib, which was first built in the 8th cen­tury BC, in the city that was once the cap­i­tal of the king­dom of Saba.

The U.N. body said the attack on the dam came a week af­ter the na­tional mu­seum in Dhamar, in cen­tral Ye­men, was “com­pletely de­stroyed.”

AP

Peo­ple carry the body of a man they un­cov­ered from un­der the rub­ble of houses de­stroyed by Saudi airstrikes in the old city of Sanaa, Ye­men on Fri­day, June 12.

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