The head of UNESCO on Sunday said a fire that severely damaged the ancient markets in Aleppo during heavy fighting in the Syrian city was a blow to world heritage, dpa reported.
Irina Bokova, director general of the UN's educational, scientific and cultural organization, expressed distress and dismay over news that the fire had severely damaged the ancient markets, which are listed as a World Heritage site.
"The reports from Aleppo are deeply distressing," Bokova said in a news release. She noted the tragedy of the human suffering, but said damage caused to Syria's cultural heritage made the conflict even worse.
The markets "have been a thriving part of Syria's economic and social life since the city's beginnings," the release said. "They stand as testimony to Aleppo's importance as a cultural crossroads since the second millennium BC."
A fire on Saturday reportedly destroyed hundreds of shops in the Aleppo market during fierce fighting for control of the city.
Syria is a signatory to the 1954 Hague convention for the protection of cultural property in an armed conflict and is bound to do its utmost to safeguard this heritage from the ravages of war, Bokova said.
Bokova also appealed to all forces to do their utmost to spare further damage to the markets. She said UNESCO stood ready to provide expertise and support for the safeguarding of Aleppo and all of Syria's cultural heritage and she pledged to send a team there to assess the situation as soon as the security situation permitted.
The Ancient City of Aleppo was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1986 in recognition of its "rare and authentic Arab architectural styles" and its testimony to the city's cultural, social, and technological development from the Mameluke period. It is one of six Syrian World Heritage sites.