Anti-government media activists in Syria have released a video purporting to show rebel fighters preparing the massive bomb attack Thursday that obliterated a historic building in the embattled city of Aleppo in which Syrian army soldiers were billeted.
Constructed in the 19th century and facing the stone entrance of a 13th century fort, the building was part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the opulent home of the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Aleppo. Fighters claimed to have tunneled under the site, planting a large cache of explosives that when detonated, had caused a plume of smoke to rise for miles above the city.
"It was like an earthquake had hit Aleppo," exclaimed Ghaith Yaqout, an anti-government activist from Aleppo contacted via Skype.
Tourists, previously a fixture in this historic city to the north, have been a distant memory since the uprisings in 2011 that have devastated much of Syria and left over a 100,000 people dead and many more destitute.
In the video, rebel fighters from the Suqoor Al-Sham (Eagles of Syria) faction, part of the Islamic Front, are seen transporting bags of what presumably are explosives in wheelbarrows through a long tunnel, connecting them via wires to crude detonating mechanisms.
A rebel commander interviewed by the anti-government Halab News Network explains that this is the fifth such tunnel under Aleppo. He adds that its length is 130 meters, and that two large piles of "fertilizer" bombs situated in two parts of the site were to be detonated simultaneously.
"We used 25 tons on the gate of the citadel and the Carton," he says, before adding that 15 tons were used on the second site.