Originally published 05/06/2013
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
(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 03/29/2013
Amid a two-year bloody civil war that has killed an estimated 70,000 civilians and left 2.5 million people homeless, a profound loss of another kind has unfolded inside Syria – an attack on the country's cultural heritage, as missiles demolish ancient sites and looters steal artifacts as old as civilization. More than 12 of the country's 36 museums have been raided and at least six historical sites have been damaged – including the Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers – since the uprising began in March 2010, according to several international groups tracking the destruction. Aleppo – one of the most beautiful cities in the Middle East and a crossroads of Christian, Jewish and Arab cultures – is among the hardest hit by the fighting between regime forces and rebels....
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