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Great Dam of Marib and Al-Qahira castle in Yemen damaged by Saudi airstrikes

Continued fighting in the region further threatens the country’s heritage sites

Recent Saudi airstrikes have caused further damage to heritage sites across Yemen. Among them is the eighth-century Great Dam of Marib, “one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Yemen and in the Arabian Peninsula”, according to Unesco director-general Irina Bokova. Images taken after the airstrike reveal that part of the dam’s wall has collapsed, and ancient Sabaean inscriptions at the site may also have been affected.

The tenth-century castle of Al-Qahira, built on a mountain at Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, has sustained damage on around 30% of the site, according to Unesco. The southern city was reportedly taken over by rebels in March. The Dhamar Museum, which housed 12,500 artefacts from the local governorate, has also been destroyed. Other historic locations affected by the airstrikes include the old cities of Sana’ and Zabid, both named as World Heritage Sites by Unesco.

In a statement, the International Committee of the Blue Shield, which promotes the protection of world heritage sites, has asked all parties involved in the conflict to “not use cultural property for military purposes, to refrain from any targeting of cultural property, and to avoid wherever possible any collateral damage to cultural property”. Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are State Parties of the 1954 Hague Convention, which requires them to protect historic sites during times of conflict.