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September 20, 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015 - ,, No comments

Lest We Forget Yemen - Update on Airstrikes on UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Sana'a

Smoke billows following airstrikes in the capital of
Sana’a on August 20, 2015.
(Image Credit: AFP / Mohammed Huwais)
In one of the heaviest nights of bombardment in months, aid workers and witnesses report that air raids on Saturday, September 19 led by Saudi-led coalition warplanes,  killed at least 30 in Yemen's capital city of Sana’a.  Ten of the dead were members of the same family, killed in the Al-Falihi neighbourhood in the city's old town. 

The Local Council of Sana’a called on all UN agencies and regional and Arab organizations, as well as UNESCO, to denounce Saudi-led airstrikes against the Old City of Sana’a and to work diligently to find a resolution, condemning the ongoing attacks against the city. 

Oman’s Sultanate, through the Foreign Ministry, also summoned Eid Mohammed Al Thaqafi, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia and handed him a written letter of protest demanding an explanation after an alliance’s air strike targeted the residence of the Omani ambassador yesterday in the southern neighbourhood of Hadda, a southwestern neighbourhood of Sana'a. 

Oman's objection memo read

According to Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat, military spokesman, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri, said the coalition had targeted the Yemeni Interior Ministry building and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, not the Omani ambassador's residence. In addition to the Omani residence and the Interior Ministry building, the overnight sorties struck a police station, the presidential complex of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and a party building.  The presidential complex had already been damaged in 2011, injuring Saleh and killing several others.

Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement strongly denouncing Saturday’s incident and requesting that the United Nations undertake measures for ending the war in Yemen before it becomes a serious threat to the security of the region. Oman is the singular Gulf state that does not belong to the Saudi-led coalition and has offered to host planned UN-mediated peace talks between the government and rebels.

Sana'a is the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sana'a Governorate. Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, Sana'a old city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its many-storeyed tower-houses built using pisé de terre, an ancient rammed earth method of construction that dates back to at least 7000 BCE in Pakistan.    Prior to becoming the latest victim of unrest the city of Sana'a hosted 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. 

Dr. Iris Gerlach, a specialist in the archaeology of southern Arabia and director of the Sana’a Branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has provided UNESCO with a “no-strike” list of all the important archaeological sites in Yemen to forward on to the Saudi government.  She conceded 

On September 01, 2015, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented 6,631 civilian casualties, including 2,112 civilian deaths, and 4,519 wounded since the start of the conflict in Yemen escalated in March 2015.

Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Jennifer Welsh, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, issued a statement September 15th on the situation in Yemen expressing concern at the ever increasing impact on civilians of the ongoing conflict and the virtual silence of the international community about the threat to populations.

As we continue to destroy the past, we are losing the future. 

By: Lynda Albertson,