Aleppo’s world heritage site souk torched as fighting rages in SyriaCurrent affairs
A huge fire has destroyed Aleppo’s medieval souk in Syria following battles that have been raging between rebels and government troops since Friday.
The fire, caused by shelling and gunfire, was still burning on Saturday, reports said. Estimates say that between 700 and 1,000 shops have been destroyed so far.
Ahmad al-Halabi, an activist, told the Associated Press (AP): “It’s a disaster. The fire is threatening to spread to remaining shops.” He confirmed that the Syrian authorities had cut off the water supply, making attempts to control the fire more difficult.
Rebels and civilians were helping each other to stop the fire with a few fire extinguishers, al-Halabi added.
The souk is a medieval labyrinth of vaulted passageways with shops that sell everything from spices to carpets. It lies beneath the city’s towering citadel where regime troops and snipers have taken up positions in a tactical move.
As a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the most important tourist attractions of the city, the souk was also one of the biggest commercial hubs of Aleppo.
The majority of shops had wooden doors and were filled with clothes, fabrics and leather which helped spread the fire, activists said.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based activist group, it was not clear how the fire at Aleppo’s souk began, though Assad’s forces and the rebels have already started blaming each other for the fire. However, Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the observatory, confirmed that a large part of the souk had been destroyed.
Aleppo’s old market is not the only Syrian cultural treasure to have been caught in the crossfire since the uprisings against Assad’s regime began. Many other important sites, including old fortresses, have been destroyed or seriously damaged in battles between regime forces and rebels. Others have been used as military bases. In Homs, for example, a city now famous for a huge massacre earlier this year where approximately 7,000 people died, historic mosques and souks have been ravaged and all the goods stolen.
During the past months, taking control over Aleppo has become a priority for the insurgency against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with daily fighting and shelling. The historic souk is the latest victim of the conflict and, as shown on YouTube, now all that remains is a dark cloud hanging ominously over Aleppo’s skyline.