$2 BILLION IN LOOTED ANTIQUITIES
SMUGGLED OUT OF WAR-TORN SYRIA
AS Syria descends ever further into civil war chaos, looters are smuggling ancient artifacts and relics out of the country to buy arms for the rebels.
The on-line Syria Steps website has warned that Syrian archaeological treasures, some dating back more than 6,000 years ago, have been pillaged at the hands of a well-organised mafia that smuggles them out of the country, especially to Syria's arch-enemies or the countries that overtly support the Syrian rebels.
The on-line report said the artifacts which were plundered from the Syrian museums and smuggled to the museums of Tel Aviv, London, the United States and other countries are estimated at $2 billion.
It deplored the Syrian government's dereliction in protecting its monuments and its failure in taking precautionary measures to prevent looting, indicating that the government should have taken its archeological treasures to safer places.
The report urged the government to work immediately to look after its treasures to prevent the repetition of the Iraqi scenario in Syria.
"At any rate, some say that the value of the looted Syrian artifacts is $2 billion, and we say what has been stolen is priceless," said the report.
Since the outbreak of protests in Syria 19 months ago, the two conflicting sides have been trading blame for the damage that has been inflicted on some archeological citadels and other historical monuments.
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.
In July, 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.