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Battle edges closer to Syrian crusader castle Crac des Chevaliers

Published on Jan 30, 2014 1:30 AM

HOMS, SYRIA (REUTERS) - President Bashar al-Assad's forces have surrounded rebels near the already war-damaged Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers, a Unesco World Heritage site in central Syria.

Crac des Chevaliers suffered mortar hits last year when rebels from the town of al-Hosn below the hill-top castle hid behind its thick stone walls, built for battles hundreds of years ago. The violence had died down until this week.

Syria's nearly three-year-old conflict has devastated whole city neighbourhoods and many ancient sites, including Aleppo's medieval covered market and its Umayyad mosque. Looting has threatened tombs in the desert town of Palmyra, and Roman temples have been damaged.

On Tuesday, rocket, artillery and tank fire battered the town of al-Zara, not far from al-Hosn, a resident of al-Zara said, asking not to be named. Warplanes later bombed the area between al-Zara and al-Hosn, targeting rebels there, he said.

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