These images show the historic mosque of Imam al-Hadi in Saada, before and after the city was targeted by Saudi air raids. Photo published on Twitter.


In Yemen, the ongoing conflict has not spared the country’s historic monuments: both an ancient mosque and a fortress dating from medieval times have become casualties of the conflict.

After a series of negotiations, the Arab coalition and Houthi rebels agreed on a five-day humanitarian ceasefire, which was set to go into effect the night of Tuesday, May 12. However, in the days leading up to the ceasefire, the Saudi-led coalition intensified its air strikes on Houthi positions, especially in the Taiz governate, located in the centre of the country, and the northern region of Saada.

On Saturday, the air strikes severely damaged the mosque of Imam al-Hadi, located in the city of Saada, a Houthi stronghold. Built 1,200 years ago, it is the third-oldest mosque in Yemen. Saudi Arabia later confirmed that the building had been targeted because it had become a shelter for the rebels.

After the air raid, the pro-Houthi television channel Al-Masira broadcast this report showing the mosque in ruins. The footage shows that the mosque’s entrance was completely destroyed.

The mosque of Imam Hadi after and before Saudi air strikes. Photo published on Twitter.

Screen grab from a report on the destruction of the mosque by pro-Houthi television channel Al-Masira.

Two days later, at dawn on May 11, Saudi pilots targeted a historic fort called Cairo, located on a hill overlooking the city of Taiz.

This fort was built in the 10th century BC. It was then renovated in the 13th century by the Muslim Ayyubid dynasty, because the fort’s strategic location allowed them to spot and prevent attacks.

This video shows Arab coalition strikes on the “Cairo" fort.

"It was a necessary evil to target the fort in Taiz"

Abdelaziz Sabri is an activist in Taiz. He covers the conflict for the popular resistance committees, which are local groups who are fighting against Houthi rebels.

The Houthi rebels seized the fort last April. They set up anti-aircraft weapons there and also used this fort to bomb neighbourhoods held by the popular resistance committees.

Luckily, there were practically no civilians in the area around the fort when it was hit by the air strikes. Most people fled Taiz’s old city, located on the side of the hill, several days ago when they found themselves trapped between two lines of fire.

These photos were shared on Twitter by people close to the popular resistance committees in Taiz. They say that the man circled in red is a Houthi rebel.

One of the walls on the lower part of the fort was damaged.

Cairo fort is the main historic site in Taiz. It’s sad that the monument has been damaged, even more so because reconstruction efforts had been going on for the past four years or so. But it was a necessary evil. The coalition had no choice but to bomb it to drive out the Houthis. I hope it will be rebuilt when the war is over.

When Saudi Arabia first launched its air offensive at the end of March, UNESCO called on the different sides involved in the conflict to avoid targeting Yemen’s “priceless” cultural heritage sites. The director of the UN agency, Irina Bokova, emphasized that the conflicting sides were obligated to protect the country’s cultural heritage under the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict adopted in The Hague in 1954.