UNESCO adds six Syrian sites to endangered list

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More than two years of civil war has inflicted heavy damage on Syria’s world heritage sites, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says.

UNESCO adds six Syrian sites to endangered list
Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic) [Credit: © Sacred Sites/Martin Gray]

UNESCO has added Syria’s six ancient sites, including the fortress of Saladin and a Crusader castle, to the endangered World Heritage list.

“Due to the armed conflict situation in Syria, the conditions are no longer present to ensure the conservation and protection of the outstanding universal value of the six World Heritage properties,” a UNESCO document said.

The country’s world heritage sites include the ancient cities of Damascus, Bosra and Aleppo, the oasis of Palmyra and the castle of Crac des Chevaliers – one of the most preserved medieval castles in the world.

UNESCO adds six Syrian sites to endangered list
Graphic on six ancient sites in Syria that have been added to the list of UNESCO’s endangered World Heritage sites Thursday [Credit: AFP]

The Qal’at Salah El-Din – also known as the fortress of Saladin – and the ancient villages of northern Syria complete the list.

All six were placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger by the UNESCO committee at its annual meeting in Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

UNESCO said its information on the scale of the destruction was “partial” and came from unverified sources, including social media and a report from Syrian authorities, which it said “does not necessarily reflect the actual situation”, according to preparatory documents for the meeting.

UNESCO adds six Syrian sites to endangered list
Image taken on June 19, 2010 shows the Roman ruins of Palmyra, northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus. UNESCO on Thursday added six ancient sites in Syria including the oasis of Palmyra to the endangered World Heritage list [Credit: AFP]

Aleppo’s old city, in particular, has “witnessed some of the conflict’s most brutal destruction,” it said, adding that the old citadel had been “caught in the line of fire”.

In April, the minaret of Aleppo’s ancient Umayyad mosque – originally built in the 8th century and then rebuilt in the 13th century – was destroyed.

“The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated,” UNESCO said.

Clandestine excavations, including looting of ancient tombs and grave sites, have also been reported at several of the sites, it added.

Source: AFP [June 20, 2013]

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