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رئيس التحرير
2018.06.19 08:38

History wiped out: Shocking before and after photos reveal the catastrophic ruins of Aleppos Old City after almost five years of bloody fighting

Before the war, Aleppos Old City drew in armies of visitors to one of the Middle Easts greatest treasures. Now photographs from before and after almost five years of fighting reveal how the city has been scarred by relentless air strikes, shelling, street fighting, fires and neglect. The Syrian army occupied the Citadel, while the rebels held most of the Old City.

History wiped out: Shocking before and after photos show Aleppos Old City in catastrophic ruins after almost five years of bloody fighting

  • Aleppo city is one of the oldest continuously habited in the world
  • It was split into warring government and rebel sectors in the past five years 
  • The Citadels high stone ramparts, occupied by government forces, have been on the front line of fighting
  • Rebels occupied much of the Old City, a World Heritage Site, surrounding the fortress 

By Reuters

Before the war, Aleppos ancient walled citadel drew in armies of visitors to one of the Middle Easts greatest treasures.

But for the past four years the Citadels high stone ramparts have been on the front line of fighting pitting the Syrian army and its allies against rebels who occupied much of the Old City surrounding the fortress.

Sudden advances by the army led to a ceasefire last week and evacuation of insurgents and many civilians, ending the warfare in Aleppo and putting the city entirely into government hands.

Reuters photographs from before and after the fighting reveal how the city has been scarred by years of air strikes, shelling, street fighting, fires and neglect.

 

The Old City of Aleppo, Syria, is pictured left on November 24, 2008. Now, a photo taken on December 13 this year (right), shows it in a state of utter destruction

The fate of Aleppo, listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site, has been the subject of great anxiety for city residents, archaeologists, historians and travellers, even as they despair for the human suffering caused by the fighting.

We are now exactly in front of the Citadels entrance. These streets are very familiar. My school was nearby. Now, only part of it is left, said Abdel Rahman Berry, a lawyer. It was ruined. They ravaged our childhood memories, he added.

Large sections of Aleppos Islamic-era covered market or souk, one of the most extensive in the world, were destroyed in clashes in 2012 and 2013, and the 11th century minaret of the Umayyad mosque was brought down by shelling.

 

Pictured is Aleppos Umayyad mosque (left) on October 6, 2010 before it was damaged. The once gleaming marble floor is now covered in dust and rubble (right) on December 17, 2016

 

Shahba Mall, one of the largest commercial shopping centres in Syria, is pictured (left) on December 12, 2009, before it was damaged (right). The latest photo, taken on October 16, 2014, shows how shelling has destroyed the ceiling

 

Aleppos Umayyad mosque (pictured, left, on March 12, 2009) was badly hit during the war. Rubble is now strewn across its floor and the remains of its ancient stone minaret lay in a heap in one corner (right)

During a visit to the Old City and inside the Umayyad mosque with the Syrian army, reporters were shown rubble-strewn streets and scorched walls that were once part of the souk, pocked with bullet holes and daubed with slogans.

The Umayyad mosque was also scarred by the fighting, and the remains of its ancient stone minaret lay in a heap in one corner where it had collapsed after suffering a direct hit, but despite damage, its elegant floor and arcaded walls remained. 

While the city, one of the oldest continuously habited in the world, was split into warring government and rebel sectors, the army retained control of the citadel even when it was surrounded by insurgents on three sides and could only be accessed by a tunnel.

There were around 25 of us protecting the citadel. We used to switch with armed men who were stationed in the old market through a tunnel that was dug underneath, said a Syrian soldier from the Citadels garrison.

 

The Umayyad mosque, built between the 8th and 13th centuries, is reputedly home to the remains of John the Baptists father. It is pictured (left) on March 12, 2009 before it came under fire and after (right) on December 13, 2016

 

Al-Sheebani schools building, in the Old City of Aleppo, is pictured on May 14, 2008. Now, a photo taken on December 17 this year, shows it closed and covered in bullet marks

 

Massage parlour Hamam El Nahasin, in the Old City of Aleppo, was once a relaxing sanctuary. It is pictured, left, on October 6, 2010. Now rubble is strewn across the floor and lights have fallen from the ceiling (right)

 

Aleppos ancient walled citadel once drew in armies of visitors to one of the Middle Easts greatest treasures. It is pictured, left, on August 9, 2010 and, right, after it was destroyed by fighting

 

A man plays the piano at a concert in al-Sheebani schools courtyard, in the Old City of Aleppo, on June 6, 2009, left. Now the trees have died and the walls are blackened and crumbled from fighting

 

The entrance to al-Zarab souk in the Old city of Aleppo is pictured on November 24, 2008 (left). It was once a major trade centre for imported goods, including raw silk from Iran, spices and dyes from India. Now it lies in ruins (righespite that exposed position, and repeated attempts by rebels to capture it, the damage to the Citadel, with its towering gatehouse and sloping arched bridge, was not as bad as elsewhere in the Old City. Government snipers fired at rebels through arrow slits in walls.

There is some damage but it can be managed. The situation is good inside the Citadel but the disaster and the real damage was inflicted on the old market, said Mamoun Abdelkarim, Syrias Director General of Antiquities.

During its stormy history, Aleppo has been controlled by Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamluks and Ottomans and it bears the marks of many of those conquerors in its diverse architectural styles.

The great Ayyubid leader Salah al-Din, who battled European Crusaders in the 12th century, described Aleppo as being the eye of Syria, and the citadel is its pupil.

No stranger to war and disaster, the Citadel was damaged by the Mongol invasion of 1260 and again destroyed by invading forces in 1400. It was used as a barracks for Ottoman troops and more recently for soldiers during the French mandate. It sustained heavy damage in the earthquake of 1822.

Among important features lost in recent fighting were mediaeval mosques and trading houses. Others, including the al-Shibani church school, evidence of Aleppos history of religious tolerance, and the 13th century Nahasin bathhouse were damaged.

Aleppos Old City and citadel had been restored in 2004.

One of the tactics used by rebels in the intense street fighting through the Old Citys narrow alleyways was the detonation of mines, dug beneath army positions in tunnels. The soldier said even on top of the citadel one such blast, under the Carlton Hotel, a landmark, had felt like an earthquake.

The bodies of our comrades are still under the hotel rubble, he added. 

 

 

 

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