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US to document damage on Syria's historical sites

Syria, the hinterland of several civilizations, has been rocked by a civil war leaving 160 thousand people killed and millions of others at refugee camps. Hundreds of historical monuments in the country have been demolished amid the conflict between the Syrian regime, opposition groups and many other insurgent radical groups.  According to a statement from the U.S. State Department, the fund will be used to asses the future restoration, preservation, and protection needs for those sites.  "American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR’s) documentation and planning will raise global awareness of the threats to Syria’s cultural heritage and identify immediate or future projects and assistance that can be carried out and provided inside Syria," the statement said. Syria is home to six UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely, the ancient cities of Aleppo, Bosra and Damascus, Crac des Chevaliers of Aleppo, the site of Palmyra and the ancient villages of northern Syria. Most of these sites, however, have suffered considerable destruction and in some cases irreversible damage. Several historical mosques displaying some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture have been amongst the thousand mosques that have been either destroyed or damaged since the beginning of the civil war in March 2011.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo – also known as the Umayyad Mosque, the seventh century Al-Omari mosque constructed by the second caliph of Islam, Omar ibn Al-Khattab, are among the most tragically damaged monuments.

Syria's famed Crac des Chevaliers Castle and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin) were also among the significant historical monuments which suffered serious damage.

A lack of authority in the country has also left museums and historical monuments throughout the country vulnerable, including the Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque in the western city of Homs.

UNESCO reported in October 2013 that a warehouse containing artifacts from the Heraqla archaeological site, located near the city of Raqqa, was looted by an armed group, with hundreds of objects of cultural significance stolen.

Among the museums that have been looted are the Raqqa Museum, the Citadel of Jaabar, the Museum of Hama, the Museum of Folklore in Aleppo and the Maarrat Museum.

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