BEIRUT - Large parts of Aleppo's covered market, the largest of its kind in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site that traces its history back to the 14th century, have been reduced to ashes as government forces and rebels fight for control of the city.

The historic market was largely undamaged by earlier fighting in Syria's largest city, but in the early hours of Saturday some of its shops caught fire during clashes in circumstances that remain unclear.

The flames spread rapidly, partly because many of the small retail units tucked beneath the market's ancient arches were full of fabric, and have now ravaged at least 1,500 shops and are still burning, activists said.

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