Wednesday, 13 September 2017 16:17

Local Activists: Assad Regime & Iran Behind Recurrent Fires in Old Damascus Souks

Syrian activists accused the Assad regime and Iranian militias of being behind the fire that engulfed 15 shops in the old Hal market in Al-Thawra Street in central Damascus on Tuesday. Three people were killed and 10 others were injured in the fire that engulfed their house located close to the market.

Activists said that the fire is the second to break out in the same souk in less than a week. The latest fire is one of a series of fires that broke out in the past few years and which local residents fear that they will continue in central Damascus.

Activists accused the Assad regime and the allied Iranian militias of arson as they are seeking to seize control of Old Damascus and empty it of the Damascene shop owners.

The timing of most of the fires that previously erupted in the old quarters of central Damascus, which all took place at dawn, indicated that were all deliberate.

In addition to the mass forced displacement operations against residents of the Damascus suburbs, the Assad regime and its Iranian allies are seeking to seize shops and buildings in Damascus to tighten their grip on the capital changing the demographic landscape in Damascus and its suburbs.

The suburbs of Daraya and Qudsaya as well as the Wadi Barada valley were emptied of their indigenous populations following brutal months-long sieges and assaults by regime forces and their allied foreign militias.

Activists in Damascus accused the Assad regime and the Iranian-backed militias of arson as shop owners in the area refused to sell out their shops and homes to the Iranians.

Local residents in Damascus were adamant regime forces and their allies were behind the fires that previously erupted in the Old City in central Damascus.

Identical accounts said that Iran is seeking to seize the areas surrounding Shiite shrines located near the Umayyad Mosque in central Damascus, including the districts of Al-Ameen, Al-Joura, and Al-Amara, the latter of which is home to the Shrine of Sayyida Ruqayya. In the last two decades, Iran has worked on renovating and expanding the shrine to attract Iranian pilgrims.

A few days ago, huge fire broke out in the vicinity of the Damascus Citadel at the end of King Faisal Street near the old Manakhliya and Hal souks. The fire caused massive damage to shops with no reports of casualties.

Several similar fires previously engulfed the souks of Old Damascus. On February 2, a huge fire broke out in the Qanawat district, causing damage to civilian property, shops, and buildings.

On April 23, 2016, a huge fire destroyed about 70 shops in the Asruniyah market of Old Damascus, a UNESCO world heritage site. At least 13 more shops were also burned in a fire that broke out in the famed Hamidiyah souk in central Damascus on December 2, 2016.

A report by the Syrian Center for Legal Studies in mid-June said that the policy of forced displacement and demographic change being pursued by the Assad regime forces and their allied foreign militias poses a serious threat to the social fabric and national identity in Syria. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)

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