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(also romanized as Jisr al-Shughour)
|Nickname(s): literally, "bridge of vacancy"|
|District||Jisr ash-Shugur District|
|Elevation||170 m (560 ft)|
Jisr ash-Shugur (pronounced [dʒɪsr aʃˈʃuɣuːr]; also spelled Jisr al-Shughour) (Arabic: جسر الشغور) is a city in the Idlib Governorate in northwestern Syria. Situated at an altitude of 170 metres (560 ft) above sea level on the Orontes river, the city was inhabited by 44,322 people as of 2010.
Jisr ash-Shugur has long been an important stopping point on trade routes and is situated on the main route between Latakia, 75 kilometres (47 mi) to the west and Aleppo 104 kilometres (65 mi) to the east. Located in the rich alluvial plain of the Ghab valley on the eastern side of the An-Nusayriyah Mountains (also known as the Jebel Ansariye), the area has been continuously inhabited for over 10,000 years. The ancient city of Qarqar is thought to have been situated some 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) south of the modern town, which was established in Hellenistic times as the city of Seleucia ad Belum. The Romans called it Niaccuba and built a stone bridge there across the Orontes.
Little remains of the ancient city other than portions of the much-repaired Roman bridge, which is now incorporated into a 15th–century Mameluke construction that still serves as one of the city's two bridges over the river. The bridge's V-shaped design was intended to enable it to withstand the force of the current. Although Jisr ash-Shugur is mostly of modern construction, a number of old Ottoman-era buildings still survive including a caravanserai built in the centre of the old town between 1660-75 and restored in 1826-27.
The city has been described as conservative and predominately Sunni Muslim with a history of unrest against the government of the ruling secular Arab nationalist Baath party. It was the scene of a mass killing by Syrian security forces in 1980 that prefigured the later and more notorious Hama massacre. On 9 March 1980, against a background of anti-government protests across Syria, inhabitants of Jisr ash-Shugur marched on the local Ba'ath Party headquarters and set it on fire. The police were unable to restore order and fled. Some demonstrators seized weapons and ammunition from a nearby army barracks. Later that day, units of the Syrian Army Special Forces were helicoptered in from Aleppo to regain control, which they did after pounding the town with rockets and mortars, destroying homes and shops and killing and wounding dozens of people. At least two hundred people were arrested. The following day a military tribunal ordered the execution of more than a hundred of the detainees. In all, about 150–200 people were said to have been killed.
Violence broke out again in Jisr ash-Shugur on 6 June 2011, three months into the 2011 Syrian uprising. According to the state-controlled Syrian media, "armed gangs" attacked local security forces, killed 120 members of the security forces and seized control of the city. Local people denied the government's version of events, saying that the dead were killed by their own side for defecting to the opposition. The city was reported to have been largely abandoned by its inhabitants, many of whom fled to neighbouring Turkey, as Syrian Army units massed outside to retake it.
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