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

UNESCO 'Profoundly Distressed' by Attacks on Heritage Site

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.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.