Photo: steps leading to the inner gate of the Citadel of Aleppo in Northern Syria, photo take in 1996
The Citadel of Aleppo is a fortified palace in the centre of the old city of Aleppo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the oldest and largest castles in the world, which suffered extensive damages as a result of the ongoing Syrian civil war; the above photo was taken in 1996, well before the civil war began.
After the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, the Syrian government forces used Citadel of Aleppo as a shield and convenient location to fire at the rebel forces who retaliated because of which some parts of the citadel were damaged in 2012. Further, the photos released in February 2016 revealed more extensive damages to it.
With a recorded history since the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, the citadel hill has been occupied by several civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ayyubids and Mamluks. Some of them built or rebuilt the ancient structures on the citadel mount. But most of the structures seen presently were built during the Ayyubid reign.
The citadel was one of the major tourist destinations in Syria before the civil war began, both for domestic and foreign travelers. The upscale Carlton Hotel, which stood directly opposite the citadel and popular among foreign tourists, was obliterated in an explosion in 2014.
According to a UN report, 22 heritage sites in Aleppo have been completely destroyed. To the north of the citadel, the Agha Jeq Mosque was hit by airstrikes and shattered, as photos published on 12 January 2016 reveal.
As per reports, six UNESCO World Heritage sites in Syria have been extensively damaged or totally destroyed and a good number of historical artifacts have been looted and they eventually found their way in the gray international art market.