The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been condemned for pillaging a library in the Unesco-listed heritage site of Zabid, one of the oldest towns in Yemen.
The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (IESCO) slammed the rebels for ransacking the library and taking historic artifacts, scientific books and manuscripts.
Zabid is in Hodeidah province, the site of the battle between the Arab Coalition and the rebels for control of the Red Sea port city vital for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Yemeni population.
ISESCO director general Abdulaziz bin Othaman Al Twajairi said that the pillaging of such heritage was a criminal offence that was a betrayal of the Yemeni people and a violation of international agreements.
He called on the UN and its cultural agency Unesco to ensure that the rebels returned the items they had stolen from the library. He cited the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict that prevents the theft of such historic items.
The Yemeni government has accused the rebels of trying to smuggle antiquities they have stolen in the civil war out the country and on to the black market in a bid to profit from the ancient items.
The town once served as the capital of Yemen centuries ago but the history preserved at its library is now at risk from the rebels who overran a series of Yemeni cities from 2014 onwards.
Unesco listed the town as a World Heritage site in 1993. It hosts the world’s fifth-oldest mosque.
Yemen has been embroiled in civil war for almost four years but a splurge of international diplomacy has seen the warring sides come closer to a resolution than at any time in the conflict.
Talks in Sweden late last year produced a ceasefire agreement that will see Hodeidah fall under the watch of international monitors. That deal is still to be implemented amid reports of Houthi violations.