Before-and-after images of culturally important sites in Syria. (U.S. State Department, Humanitarian Information Unit, NextView License [DigitalGlobe]. Satellite imagery analysis by UNITAR-UNOSAT)
Twenty-four of Syria's cultural heritage sites have been destroyed during the country's civil war, which soon will enter its fourth year, according to a United Nations report released this week. An additional 266 such sites have been affected, and 189 of those are moderately to severely damaged.
The 180-page report from the U.N. Institute for Training and Research, or UNITAR, analyzed satellite images of various cultural heritage sites to determine the severity of the damage.
Four of the six U.N.-designated World Heritage sites in Syria have been used for military purposes or have been battlefields, and other cultural sites are being systematically looted, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other officials said in a statement in March. "As the people of Syria continue to endure incalculable human suffering and loss, their country’s rich tapestry of cultural heritage is being ripped to shreds."
World Heritage Sites are places deemed to have significance for natural or cultural reasons that transcend national boundaries and generations (think the Great Barrier Reef or Great Wall of China). In all, there are 1,007 World Heritage sites.