Photos: Syria in Ruins

Sep 09, 2013 at 2:35 PM ET

Let’s take a tour of Syria—in ruins. For more than two years, a civil war has rocked the country with missiles, cluster bombs and now reportedly chemical weapons, killing more than 110,000 people and forcing 2 million out of their homes, according to the U.N. and human rights groups. Examples of the destruction are everywhere. What had been a bustling, colorful souk in Aleppo is a deserted marketplace, its stores shuttered, its ceiling destroyed. What had been a lush olive grove is an overcrowded refugee camp. And now U.S. Congress is debating whether to intervene with airstrikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite regime. Whether that move will help the Syrian people is still unclear, but it will undoubtedly reduce more of the country to rubble.

Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo

May 11, 2011, and April 26, 2013

Some of Syria’s current strife is grounded in religious differences. Assad’s clan is made of up Alawites, a Shiite Muslim subset, and the rebels are mostly Sunnis. Syria contains some of Islam’s holiest sites, and some of the most revered ones are now caught in the civil war’s crossfire. Above is an aerial view of the destruction to the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo. Below, an on-the-ground look at the damage to the mosque.

Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo

April 16, 2013, and April 24, 2013

Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque used to boast an iconic minaret dating back to 1090. The 11th century minaret was destroyed by a bomb on April 24—something shocked observers compared to “destroying the Taj Mahal.” Regime forces blamed Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda organization founded at the beginning of the civil war. In turn, Syrian rebels blamed tank fire from the regime.

Al Madina Souk in Aleppo

Sept. 30, 2012, and Feb. 12, 2013

Al Medina souk was Aleppo’s crowded silk road, and it was a kaleidoscope of soft fabrics, saffron-colored spices and stained glass lanterns. Today, the ceiling has been destroyed, the shops are closed and shoppers are nowhere to be found.

Idlib, Syria

Feb. 22, 2012, and Feb. 19, 2013

The olive-tree-lined Idlib, a northwestern city west of Aleppo, used to be a major production center for olives, cotton, wheat and cherries. The city was once home to mostly Sunni Muslims and Christians. When the war broke out, the city became a rebel stronghold to be used as living quarters, often housing Free Syrian Army soldiers.

Al Hamiddya Souk, Damascus

Feb. 22, 2012, and Feb. 19, 2013

Al Hamidiyya Souk was the largest market in central Syria, famous for its two-story shops, clothing emporiums and curved rooftop. Today, most of the shops are closed or have been reduced to small stands that can easily be packed up in case of emergency.

Since talks of U.S. airstrikes began last month, Syrian military forces have been moving ammunition and soldiers into schools and private residences around Damascus to minimize the potential damage to the capital city of a country that is too familiar with the destruction of war.