Explosives can have horrific effects on ancient sites. The city of Aleppo in Syria is a World Heritage Site, and has become a centre of fighting. The minaret of the Great Mosque is more than 1000 years old (Figure 1).

Aleppo minaret

Figure 1 (left): The minaret of the Great Mosque, Aleppo, Syria, 2011. (Copyright: Emesik, 2011)

In April 2013, the mosque was engulfed in heavy combat, and a shell struck the minaret, destroying it completely. The minaret is/was in the north-east corner of the building, as seen in the before and after satellite imagery below. Since then, a large number of other buildings near the mosque have been destroyed as militants have tunnelled under them and placed explosives. Satellite images of this destruction below, obtained and analysed in a report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, can be seen here, and in a report by UNOSAT, the satellite imagery analysis branch of the UN.

Satellite images of the Great Mosque, Aleppo, Syria, before and after the destruction of the minaret.

Aleppo mosque minaret July 2010
Aleppo mosque minaret May 2013