Baalbek, Lebanon, Nov 2005: Baalbek- situated in the Beqaa Valley 85 km northeast of Beirut- contains some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon. Baal1Known as Heliopolis during Roman rule, it had one of the largest sanctuaries in the whole of the Roman empire.Baal2The history of settlement in the area of Baalbek dates back about 9,000 years, with almost continual settlement of the tell under the Temple of Jupiter, which was a temple since the pre-Hellenistic era.Baal3When I visited in November 2005, there was hardly a soul around except the odd military security patrol.Baal6Less than a year after my visit, on August 4, 2006, as part of the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli helicopter-borne soldiers supported by aircraft entered the Shi’ite Islamic Hikmeh Hospital in Baalbek to capture senior members of Hezbollah.Baal7 They were considered to be responsible for the kidnapping of the two Israeli IDF soldiers on July 13, 2006, and who were believed to be residing in the building. Baal5The fighting caused minor damage to the hospital. Several gunmen were killed, and weapons and ammunition were seized from inside the hospital building. It has been reported that during the conflict, vibrations caused by bombing damaged the ruins.Baal4“Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee”, UNESCO reported in making Baalbek a World Heritage Site in 1984.Baal8

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