It’s not only civilians who fall prey to the bloodshed in Syria but also the world’s most precious sites. There are 40 monuments in the country that UNESCO put on the World Heritage list. Over the last three years they’ve been attacked, looted and even destroyed.

This is just what happened with Aleppo’s ancient Al-Madina market, known as the largest covered market of its kind and a UNESCO world heritage site. At least 500 shops and trade pavilions in the Old City of Aleppo, which trace their history back to the 14th century, have been turned to ashes as a result of fighting between government troops and rebels. Meanwhile, the unrestrained looting of historical monuments in Syria has become an issue widely discussed on the international level. Last year the UN Security Council even adopted a resolution banning the sale of stolen Syrian artifacts. The country’s government has also been trying to prevent the smuggling of ancient artifacts as rebels are known to exchange them for arms, says Maamoun Abdul Karim, Director General at the department for preserving Syrian cultural heritage.

“A civil war in Syria has boosted smuggling activity. Monuments are being looted, with treasured findings exchanged for arms. And things are only getting worse. There are some 10,000 cultural monuments in Syria. As a rule, rebels destroy those monuments located far from populated areas as they feel more freedom to commit acts of vandalism. Most of them do this for money. The army and the police are trying to prevent vandalism. Some of the looters were caught red-handed. Several ancient castles were damaged by bombs,” Maamoun Abdul Karim said.
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