x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

1,000-year-old minaret felled in Syrian war

The minaret, a once-soaring stone tower, was left a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard.

BEIRUT // The 1,000-year-old minaret of Aleppo's Umayyad Mosque collapsed yesterday in clashes between Syrian rebels and forces loyal to president Bashar Al Assad, activists and state media said.

Syria's civil war has cost more than 70,000 lives and has also damaged or destroyed many archaeological and architectural treasures, some of them United Nations world heritage sites, such as Aleppo's Old City, where the mosque is located.

The minaret, a once-soaring stone tower, was left a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard.

It was the second time in just over a week that a historic Sunni mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. Mosques served as a launching pad for anti-government protests in the early days of the country's two-year-old uprising, and many have been targeted.

Syrian's state news agency Sana said rebels from the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al Nusra group blew it up, while Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Al Khatib said a Syrian army tank fired a shell that "totally destroyed" the minaret.

Yesterday, in Damascus, Syrian activists said two mortar shells hit a suburb, killing at least seven people and wounding 30.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shells hit yesterday near a municipality building and a school in Jaramana suburb. Damascus suburbs have been opposition strongholds during the conflict.

Five of Syria's six World Heritage sites have been damaged in the fighting, according to Unesco, the UN's cultural agency. Looters have broken into one of the world's best-preserved Crusader castles, Crac des Chevaliers, and ruins in the ancient city of Palmyra have been damaged.

* Reuters with files from the Associated Press