Fire sweeps through historic market, neighbourhoods in Syrian capital Damascus

Fire sweeps through historic market, neighbourhoods in Syrian capital Damascus
A fire swept through several neighbourhoods and markets in Old Damascus, Syria, causing significant damage to historic buildings and shops.
3 min read
17 July, 2023
Fires are frequent in Damascus and other parts of Syria [Getty]

A fire swept through a historic market in Old Damascus on Sunday, burning down shops and residential homes.

The blaze, which centered on Al-Thawra Street in the Syrian capital’s Sarouja market, resulted in a vast amount damage, The New Arab’s Arabic-language site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

Images and videos shared by activists online showed the fires ravaging the market as people looked in horror. Houses, shops and buildings were gutted but there were no reports yet of injuries.

Among the impacted homes was a heritage site listed by the ministry of culture.

The home reportedly belonged to Emir Abd Al-Rahman Pasha Al-Youssef, who led Syrian pilgrims on the Hajj pilgrimage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was a member of the Ottoman Senate.

The fire also impacted other localities such as Al-Amara neighbourhood and Sheikh Mujahid.

The blaze was put out by the Damascus Fire Brigade, according to the Syrian regime’s news agency SANA, who used multiple fire trucks, four water tanks and three civil defence trucks.

The brigade’s commander told the regime’s news agency that an investigation would launched to find out the cause of the fire.

One witness told the Turkey-based outlet Orient News that fire services were delayed by over an hour and a half.

The cause is yet to identified, though the Syrian regime often attributes such fires to electrical short-circuits, which are commonplace in Damascus, as the cause of such fires.

Activists and sources who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Orient News said that many people in Sarouja believed that Iranian agents started the fires.

The activists said that Iranian agents have actively been seeking to buy properties in the area, but owners refused to sell. Activist Ayman al-Dimashqi said that many fires had broken out in areas of Iranian interest, burning down old homes and shops.

The New Arab cannot independently verify these claims.

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The Al-Amara neighbourhod witnessed a blaze in June 2018, while a similar incident occurred in Al-Asrounieh market in 2016. Both fires resulted in significant material damage.

Residents are now demanding that the fire department deploy at least one fire engine in Old Damascus on a permanent basis to immediately respond to such incidents, according Arabic-language outlet Arabi21.

Damascus and other cities in Syria are prone to such incidents.

The Syrian capital and its outskirts have been fully under regime control since 2018, and often ranks as one of the least livable cities in the world due to its worsening infrastructure and inflation.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 when the Assad regime brutally cracked down on peaceful protests.

Over 500,000 people have been killed since then, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas and the regime has been able to take control of most of the territory once held by rebel groups with the assistance of Russia and Iran.