Monday, June 03, 2013

SYRIAN CIVIL WAR IS RAVAGING ANCIENT HISTORIC SITES

The following report, dated May 28, 2013 by Stuart Ramsey, Chief correspondent for Sky News is appalling:

A shaft of sunlight through the broken roof of a covered alleyway frames three Free Syrian Army snipers as they change shift in the midst of rubble strewn in every direction. In Aleppo there has been a stalemate between the regime forces and the opposition lasting months, but the snipers never stop fighting. The crack of high velocity rounds passing nearby is a constant if you venture near the front lines.

But I'm not in any ordinary battlefield. I am in one of the most important archaeological sites in the world - the 4,000-year-old Citadel of Aleppo with its mosques and covered markets. Day by day it is being destroyed.

Sky News is the first foreign organization allowed inside Aleppo's Great Mosque since it was taken over by the opposition forces. It is the frontline. The government forces now hold the Citadel, but they are surrounded. Huge prayer rooms and its central prayer area are strewn with rubble or destroyed. The once magnificent minaret is a heap of rubble. All that is left is a tourist guide photograph hanging on a wall attesting to its former beauty.

In the Great Hall sheets and rugs have been strung up to protect the rebel fighters from government snipers. They take no chances, running, ducking and hiding behind ancient giant pillars as they show us around. "We tried to keep our areas safe when we took them but the government attacked us with mortars and jets and destroyed everything," a rebel commander, who didn't want to be named, told me. "Every time we took an area over and the regime withdrew they attacked and there was nothing we could do to stop the fires," he said.

This is a World Heritage Site and Unesco has been uncertain about the fate of this entire ancient complex. They now know the truth and it is as bad as anyone had predicted.Surrounding the mosques and the citadel are truly magnificent covered markets, or at least they were. In the fighting and bombing they have been, in many places, completely gutted. Some of the most intense fighting took place in the narrow pathways linking the market areas. Entire streets are now choked with rubble and living there are the rebel fighters. To get around the most exposed parts of the old city they have dug through walls linking the streets. The destruction here is not complete and it can likely be restored in due course. But this war is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of people and shows no sign of abating.

Those losses, the human cost to this nation, will never be repaired.

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