The 11th-century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque, a famous Syrian mosque in Aleppo, has collapsed in a street battle between the rebels and the government troops, depriving the ancient Syrian city of its most important landmark. President Bashar Assad's government and the rebels have blamed each other over the destruction to the UNESCO world heritage site and the centerpiece of the walled Old City of Aleppo.
The news has sent shock waves throught the archaeological community. "It’s like blowing up the Taj or the Acropolis in Athens. In terms of heritage, this is the worst possible", says a renowned conservationist.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city and a commercial hub, became a key battleground in the Syrian civil war after the rebels’ attack had begun last summer. Since then, the ongoing fighting has divided the city into rebel- and regime-held zones, killed thousands and forced thousands to flee.
With thousands of years of history, Syria is home to priceless ancient treasures including the desert oasis of Palmyra. The national capital, Damascus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.