x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Irreplaceable loss

It is a tragedy that world has lost an 11th Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo. But the Syrian people are losing much more.

The destruction this week of the 11th century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo is the latest outrage in the increasingly sectarian civil war in Syria.

It follows confirmation about the extent of the involvement of Hizbollah militants in battles inside Syria near the border with Lebanon. This is not the first time that Lebanese Shia fighters have spilt into Syria, but in the past Hizbollah has said that those members fighting for the Assad regime were doing so in a personal capacity.

While the opposing sides are blaming each other for the Aleppo minaret bombing, it comes barely a week after a similar attack on the Omari mosque in Deraa. Both mosques are symbols of Sunni Islam.

A direct appeal by Syrian National Coalition president Moaz Al Khatib to Hizbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah for the withdrawal of all Hizbollah troops from Syria seems destined to fail and the situation will certainly deteriorate in the lead-up to the expected battle for Damascus.

The loss of a 1,000-year-old minaret may pale alongside the deaths of tens of thousands of people, but the act has sent powerful psychological and political messages. It is tragedy enough that the world has lost a heritage landmark; but the Syrian people are losing so much more.