Fires sparked by clashes between government troops and rebels raged through the medieval marketplace of Aleppo today, destroying hundreds of shops lining the vaulted passageways where foods, fabrics, perfumes, and spices have been sold for centuries. Some described the overnight blaze as the worst blow yet to a historic district that helped make the heart of Syria's largest city and commercial hub a Unesco world heritage site.
The souk, a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with shops, was once a major tourist attraction, but has been the scene of near-daily firefights and shelling in recent weeks after rebels who fought their way into the city two months ago pushed toward its center. Activists say regime troops and snipers have taken up positions in the citadel that dominates the city. The fire started late yesterday amid heavy government shelling, and was still burning this morning, activists said. One, who is based in the city, estimated that the majority of the neighborhood's hundreds of shops were destroyed.