Parts of Yemen’s Old City of Sana’a were reduced to rubble, including some of its ornately decorated burnt brick tower-houses, in an airstrike during the early hours of Friday that left at least six people dead.
The Houthi rebel-controlled Saba news service said a Saudi Arabian warplane targeted the area and that children were among the wounded. It was the first direct hit on old Sana’a since a Saudi-led coalition began air raids in March in a bid to restore President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi to power.
Among the damaged buildings is a complex of homes bordering an urban garden near the Sailah water channel, said UNESCO, which lists the ancient city as a World Heritage Site.
Saudi Arabia didn’t carry out any airstrikes in historic neighborhoods of Sana’a, Ahmed Asseri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that’s bombing Yemen, told Al Arabiya television. The Houthis are using the fact that those areas are safe in order to store ammunition and deploy air defenses there, he said.
Situated in a mountain valley, Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years, and became a major Islamic center in the seventh and eighth centuries. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova deplored the loss of life and described the old city as “one of the world’s oldest jewels of Islamic urban landscape” and said it represents heritage that “bears the soul of the Yemeni people.”
Several historic monuments across Yemen have been damaged since the conflict began, the UN cultural organization said, including the Ottoman era al-Owrdhi historical compound outside the walls of Sana’a.
At least 1,037 civilians, including 234 children, have died between mid-March and May and more than a million people have been displaced, according to UN estimates.