DAMASCUS, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Syria has voiced deep concern that its heritage is in distress because of the repetitive attacks by armed opposition groups against archeological sites and the illegal and random excavation acts in several parts of the country.
Syria complains that looters capitalize on the current mess the country is passing through to loot its centuries-old artifacts and carry out illegal excavations.
In its annual report on the status-quo of archaeological sites, the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums focused on what has happened to archeological sites in the northern province of Aleppo, indicating that the minaret of the Umayyad Mosque, which is one of the most important archaeological mosques in Syria, was destroyed.
It said that hundreds of shops in the markets of the Old Aleppo city were burned and the entrance of Aleppo's citadel and its northern tower were damaged.
The report, published by the Syrian Economic Steps website, said that drilling operations and sabotage by using heavy machinery have ruined large parts of Tal al-Qramel site in Aleppo' s suburbs which dates back to the Bronze Ages, adding that Guensrin site in southwest of Aleppo, which dates back to the Romanian and Islamic era, was subject to wide-scale excavation practiced by groups of thieves belonging to the neighboring areas.
The report said that the pace of illegal excavation has been stepped up lately at Khanasser site in Aleppo, noting that a group of armed robbers stole a mosaic from a church there.
Al-Daidariya cave in Samaan area was subject to some acts of sabotage, the report said, adding that a large quantity of wooden poles that were used in the excavation were stolen.
In the area of Manbej, 60 km east of the city of Aleppo, the report said that encroachment on archaeological sites have been accelerated in the city and its surroundings, noting that there are groups, specialized in stealing antiquities, used metal detectors to extract what they might find of pottery or glassware and coins.
Minister of Culture Lubanah Mshaweh recently urged all concerned international organizations to actively move and help Syria protect the Aleppo Citadel from the attacks of terrorists and keep the old city and the cultural heritage sites away from the current events in Syria.
The minister, in a statement, referred to the need for cooperation with the Syrian government to rescue what has been remained of historic features in Aleppo.
She clarified that the latest reports coming from different sides affirm that the volume of damage that hit the city's cultural heritage became very big and exceeded the last year's statistics which mentioned that big parts of 121 buildings, in addition to old markets, have come under fire.
She warned against the threats posed by the armed terrorist groups to blow up Aleppo citadel, pointing out that armed terrorist groups have burned and destroyed a number of historic markets and khans in Aleppo old city in addition to their targeting of the Great Mosque.
A report published last month by the Guardian warned that a heritage built over 5,000 years or more is being steadily buried under rubble.
The paper cited the Global Heritage Fund's director of Global Projects, Dan Thompson, as saying: "All of the country's world heritage sites have sustained damage, including the UNESCO site cities, and a great many of the other monuments in the country have been damaged, destroyed or have been subject to severe looting."
"Shelling, shooting, heavy machinery installed in sites, and major looting are the leading causes of damage and destruction to the sites, although I would not discount that vandalism is also playing a part. As far as we know, no concrete action is being taken to combat the damage in the present moment."
UNESCO believes that five of Syria's six World Heritage Sites, which include the ancient desert city of Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers crusader fortress and parts of old Damascus, have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict.
The Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria stressed that several museums and archaeological cities in Syria were pillaged of treasures or partially damaged.