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Iran Behind Asruniyeh Marketplace Fire in Damascus: Activists

Syrian activists accuse Tehran of deliberately starting fire in UNESCO-listed site in an attempt to force out locals from around the Umayyad Mosque
Iran Behind Asruniyeh Marketplace Fire in Damascus: Activists

Activists have accused Iran of being behind the fire that broke out on Saturday, April 23, in the Asruniyeh market of the Old City of Damascus, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The market is adjacent to the famed Al-Hamidiyeh souk in one of the world’s oldest cities.

"It began at 6:00 a.m. in one shop in the center of the neighborhood and then spread to other shops," a senior civil defense member in the market told AFP.

Activists claim shopkeepers had been pressured to evacuate the market by the Syrian government amid Iranian attempts to control areas surrounding the two Shiite shrines of Sayyida Ruqayya and Imam al-Hussein near the Umayyad Mosque.

Speaking to official news agency SANA, the capital's civil defense chief General Jihad Mousa blamed the fire on an electrical fault.

An AFP correspondent said at least 50 store fronts and warehouses were damaged.

Syria's economy has already been devastated by the five-year war, with its foreign reserves depleted and inflation soaring.

"Our livelihood has gone," said one shopkeeper after Saturday's blaze, his head in his hands. "This shop used to feed 10 people who worked for me."

An AFP correspondent said the owner of the shop where the fire started was taken to hospital with severe burns to his head and hand.

Firefighters tried to douse the flames from within the souk's alleyways and from rooftops.

Toy shop owner Mohammad Ashqar said he had restocked his store just two days before the fire.

"I haven't been able to go in yet to check on the shop," he said.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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