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Syrian civil war


  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Syrian castles serve as fighting positions

    Beirut — A Shiite king ruled northern Syria more than a millennium ago from behind the towering walls of the citadel in the city of Aleppo. In later centuries, Arab armies repelled medieval crusaders from the hilltop fortress, Mongol invaders damaged it and Ottomans used it as a military barracks.By 2011, the citadel had settled into what seemed a comfortable retirement as a UNESCO world heritage site and tourist attraction, illuminated at night by artistic ground lights and surrounded below by the bustling cafes of Aleppo’s old city.But today, in the third year of a bloody civil war that has killed more than 70,000 Syrians, the hulking citadel has resumed its strategic role of earlier eras. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have taken position in it to shell their enemies, and Syrian opposition fighters say they are desperate to capture it. For both sides, what was true in war then is true now: Those who control the citadel have the power to alter the front lines....

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Minaret destroyed at 12th-century Syrian mosque on World Heritage list

    (CNN) -- Both sides in Syria's civil war were in rare agreement Wednesday: The minaret at a 12th-century mosque in Aleppo has been obliterated.Unclear, however, was who destroyed the tower at the Great Umayyad Mosque, which has witnessed the march of nine centuries. It was just last month that a United Nations official expressed concern about the two-year war possibly damaging the mosque, a World Heritage site.An opposition group blamed the government."Regime forces have committed today a new crime against human and cultural heritage by targeting the minaret of the mosque and completely destroying it," the Local Coordination Committees said. The group released a photograph of the mosque without its signature minaret, apparently reduced to rubble....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Historic synagogue in Damascus damaged, looted as violence rages nearby

    DAMASCUS, Syria — A Jewish synagogue in Damascus believed to be thousands of years old has been damaged and looted as clashes have consumed the surrounding neighborhood, a Syrian official and an anti-government activist said Monday.Damage to the Jobar Synagogue, which tradition holds was built by the biblical prophet Elisha, is the latest example of Syria’s rich cultural heritage falling victim to the civil war between President Bashar Assad’s regime and rebels seeking his ouster.Syria is home to thousands of years of civilizations at the crossroads of the Levant and boasts important cultural sites dating back to the Bible, the ancient Roman empire, the Crusaders and the arrival of Islam....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Jammed in Roman caves, ducking Syria’s war

    ...They live a grim existence — a routine of trying to eat, to stay warm and dry, to gather firewood and water out in the elements, all while listening for the sounds of incoming planes and artillery shells.Explanations of the origins of these underground shelters, many of which are set among other Roman ruins, vary from squatter to squatter. Some say they once were pens for livestock. Others say they were temporary quarters, occupied while more impressive dwellings were built in the centuries before Jesus. Perhaps some were crypts.Whatever the intention of those who first dug them, Syria’s caves have become essential once more, restored to modern use because their thick walls offer a chance of survival to a population under fire....

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Syria's ancient Palmyra on brink of destruction

    As the Syrian crisis enters its third year, an end to the violence in the country is nowhere to be seen. The world has become accustomed to rising death tolls and reports of shelling and destruction. However, another threat looms in Syria, and this time it is targeting its cultural heritage.Palmyra, one of the oldest cities in the country, has been subjected to intermittent shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The ruins of the city, which is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, date back thousands of years. “Bombs and rockets come in all directions,” eyewitnesses said. Assad forces have struck the Roman Temple of Bel – built in 43 A.C. – and damaged its northern wall, eyewitnesses said, adding portions and stones of the wall have been destroyed....

  • Originally published 02/26/2013

    As atrocities mount, Syrians collect evidence of war crimes with an eye toward future trials

    BEIRUT — Syrian activist Yashar hopes the security agents who tormented him during five months of detention will one day be put on trial. In detention, he says, he was locked naked in a tiny box for a week, beaten daily during marathon interrogations and blindfolded for 45 days.A whole range of groups have accelerated a campaign to gather evidence of war crimes including torture, massacres and indiscriminate killings in the Syrian regime’s war against rebels, hoping to find justice if President Bashar Assad falls. Some talk about referring the cases to the International Criminal Court or forming a special tribunal, but many in Syria hope that it’s all laid out in the country’s own courtrooms.“I want to take my case to a Syrian court and a Syrian judge who will put my torturers in the same jail where I was held,” Yashar, 28, told The Associated Press. He declined to give his full name for security reasons....