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Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen heritage site, alliance denies

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Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen heritage site, alliance denies
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Sanaa: War planes of the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces bombed a historical site inscribed on the UN World Heritage List in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Friday and killed at least six civilians, a security source told Xinhua news agency.

"They bombed the Old City of Sanaa in the city centre, killing at least six civilians and wounding several others. At least five houses in the historical site were destroyed, and many buildings in the Old City were damaged," the security official told Xinhua.

Rescue teams were searching for survivors under the rubble and the wounded have been taken to hospital, he added.

However, a coalition spokesman on Friday denied claims that it carried out an air strike on the historic old quarter of the capital Sanaa.

The battles and air strikes in Yemen have left more than 1,600 people dead and about 5,000 wounded, while more than one million people have been displaced, according to the health ministry. Many heritage sites in Yemen were either damaged or destroyed in the warfare.

In the past few days, the coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia have been bombing the defence ministry near the Old City of Sanaa, one of the sites on the World Heritage List of Unesco.

The Old City of Sanaa, situated in a mountain valley, has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. In the seventh and eighth centuries, the city became a major centre for the propagation of Islam, comprising 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century.

Amid alarming reports about bombing of the world heritage sites, Unesco called on all parties to protect Yemen's unique cultural heritage.

"I condemn this destruction and I call on all parties to keep cultural heritage out of the conflict," director-general of Unesco Irina Bokova said in a statement released in May.

"I call on all parties to refrain from any military use or targeting of cultural heritage sites and monuments, in respect of their obligations under international treaties," she said, urging the protection of Yemen's cultural heritage sites from collateral damage or intentional targeting.

Also on Friday, air strikes hit several military sites held by the Shia Houthi group in the northern province of Saada, killing four people, according to the official Saba news agency, which is under control of the Houthis.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition forces have been bombing the Houthi group and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullash Saleh since March 26, after Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was ousted and forced to flee to Riyadh.

Under UN mediation, Hadi, the Houthi group, Saleh and other Yemeni parties have agreed to hold talks in Geneva, Switzerland, on Sunday for solutions to end the current crisis.

International humanitarian agencies have called on the international community to support a lasting solution that could save the lives of millions of civilians in Yemen, as the UN prepares to host the peace talks.

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