Historic mosque in Daraa destroyed in Syrian army shelling

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According to an amateur video shot and uploaded onto YouTube by activists, Syrian government forces allegedly destroyed the minaret of the historic Omari mosque in the western city of Daraa.

Daraa has been at the heart of fierce clashes between Syria’s government and opposition forces for the past two weeks.

In the video, the mosque can be seen at the end of a street with its towering minaret crumbling to the ground after an apparent bombardment.

The historic mosque is said to date back to the 7th century and has been the target of heavy shelling for several days, AFP reported.

“This regime of unrestrained barbarism targeted with tanks the minaret of the Omari mosque, a place full of symbols of civilization and spirituality and humanity,” the Syrian National Council (SNC) told AFP.

“The minaret of this mosque, which was built by Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab, is the first in the whole of the Levant, and has been destroyed by the soldiers of the tyrant,” it added, referring to President Bashar al-Assad.

The Council noted that the mosque played a pivotal role at the start of the uprising against Assad, which erupted in the city of Daraa after the arrest and torture of two boys.

Opposition fighters control much of the north and east of Syria but do not dominate any major city, according to Reuters.

“It is not just stones that are destroyed but also religious and historic heritage cherished by the Syrian people,” Local Coordination Committees told AFP.

As Syria’s conflict continues into a its third year with more than 70,000 killed and one million displaced outside the country, a number of key heritage sites, both religious and cultural have been hit.

International authorities including UNESCO have expressed their concern.

Syria has six sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, which includes the old cities of Damascus and Aleppo along with the famed Crac des Chevaliers crusader castle.