UNESCO-Listed Medieval Souk in Syria Burned, Bombed | Smart News | Smithsonian

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UNESCO-Listed Medieval Souk in Syria Burned, Bombed

Aleppo, the site of an ancient UNESCO-listed souk in Syria, went up in flames on Sunday as clashes between troops and rebels infiltrated the market quarter.

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A view of Aleppo in 2007, before fighting began. Photo: Watchsmart

Aleppo, the site of an ancient UNESCO-listed souk in Syria, went up in flames on Sunday as clashes between troops and rebels infiltrated the market quarter. The historic souk, largely fashioned from wood, represents Syria’s commercial capital and houses family businesses that date back for generations. This morning, the violence continued as three large explosions went off in Aleppo’s central square, and as many as five car bombs were deployed in rapid succession in an area currently controlled by the military.

AFP reports on the destruction:

Persistent explosions rocked the covered market on Sunday as rebels armed with grenades and makeshift bombs pushed towards the Umayyad Mosque in the heart of the Old City as part of the all-out offensive in Aleppo they announced on Thursday night.

Before the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime rule erupted in March last year, the UNESCO-listed covered market would have been packed with tourists.

But since mid-July the city of some 1.7 million has become the key battleground of the uprising.

UNESCO first listed Aleppo’s market quarter—which includes more than 1,550 stores and is one of the largest souks in the world—as a world heritage site in 1986. The souk dates back for more than 2,000 years.

One rebel fighter told AFP, ”It’s part of the heritage of mankind that’s being destroyed.” Yet rebels confirmed Monday that they will continue their offensive in the historic city. Around the country, soldiers, rebels and civilian looters are also plundering historic artifacts and relics.

Activists claim as many as 40 people may have been killed and 100 others injured in this latest attack, most of whom were military officers and soldiers. President Assad reportedly visited Aleppo yesterday and ordered 30,000 more troops to take part in the battle.

Syria’s ongoing uprising have so far cost the country more than 30,000 casualties, according to Reuters, and  the violence shows no signs of abating any time soon.

A video uploaded to Youtube surveys the market damage in the bombings’ immediate aftermath:

More from Smithsonian.com:

Looters are Stealing Artifacts to Fund War in Syria 
Souk in Aleppo, Syria 

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