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Fire Rips Through Syrian Heritage Site
September 30, 2012

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Fighting in Syria has destroyed hundreds of shops in a world heritage site.

Aleppo's Souk Al-Madina, a wood-and-stone market that has stood since the Middle Ages, was burning, with up to 1,000 shops destroyed, opposition groups reported. The market, a covered network of vaulted stone alleyways and intricately carved wooden storefronts in Aleppo's Old City, has a combined length of eight miles. Shopkeepers sell a large variety of items. The former Silk Road destination has stood since the 14th Century.

UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, has reported damage to four of Syria's other five world heritage sites, including a medieval fortress in Damascus and the ancient desert city of Palmyra, a trading center as far back as Biblical times.

The violence in Syria has engulfed civilians and military personnel alike, as armed opposition forces struggle to oust President Bashar al-Assad. All major cities and many other smaller cities and towns have been consumed by the 18-month uprising, with deaths across the country exceeding 30,000, according to human rights groups.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city with a population of 2.5 million, has seen considerable conflict in recent weeks. The fire in the Souk al-Madina is thought to have been touched off by gunfire.

Both sides in what many are increasingly call a cease-fire have dug in and resorted to finding a violent solution to the dispute. Rulers and officials of other countries have been reluctant to interfere militarily. Diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, most notably a six-point peace plan brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have failed, as have efforts by Western countries to enact economic or diplomatic sanctions against Syria, as China and/or Russia have repeatedly blocked such resolutions brought before the U.N. Security Council.

Iran has been outspoken in its support of Assad. Russia continues to sell arms to the Syrian government. A few Gulf Arab countries have given economic aid to the Syrian opposition.

In addition to the tens of thousands dead, another tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries, most notably Turkey, in an attempt to escape the conflict. Gunfire and bombs have landed repeatedly in neighboring Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey.






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