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Syrian Cultural Heritage Site Allegedly Bombed by Assad Regime

"We’ve been concerned about the barrel bombing and we’ve passed this information to the regime saying do not, please do not target the museum."<br><i>Amr Al-Azm </i>

A U.N. envoy to Syria this week has condemned what he calls the “unacceptable" use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime. On Monday, an important cultural heritage site was the target of one of those bombs.

News of the bombing of the Ma’arra Mosaic Museum came to AmrAl-Azmjust as he appeared on WNPR’sWhere We Live Tuesday morning. 

"I’m literally reading the information as it comes in from our teams on the ground inside Syria," Al-Azm said. 

Al-Azm is an associate  professor of anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio and chair of the Syrian Heritage Task Force. 

"The city of Ma’arra has a small museum, but the museum contains an exceedingly important collection of mosaics that come from the nearby sites of the Dead Cities. These sites date back from the 3rd to the 5th century A.D.," Al-Azm said. 

He said a barrel bomb -- a crude explosive device often filled with scrap metal -- or possibly a naval mine landed in the museum courtyard.  The rotunda of the museum, containing an important library, was almost completely destroyed. The museum’s display halls were also badly damaged.

ma_arra_museum_2.jpg
Credit Facebook
Photo from Syrian Heritage Task Force Chair Amr Al-Azm's Facebook page of the Ma'arra Mosiac Museum after it was bombed Monday. Al-Azm said the rotunda of the museum, containing an important library, was almost completely destroyed.

"We’ve been concerned about the barrel bombing and we’ve passed this information to the regime saying do not, please do not target the museum.  And we even sandbagged it," Al-Azm said. "Back in February 2015 we were able to finally get sandbags to put on top of the mosaics, just in case an incident like this happens, and now it has."

ma_arra_museum_bombing_sandbags.jpg
Credit Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum / Smithsonian Institution
Sandbags intended to protect historical mosaics from damage at the Ma'arra Mosaic Museum, prior to Monday's bombing.

Al-Azm is calling for an end to indiscriminate barrel bombing which he says should be considered a war crime.

Cultural heritage sites in the region have also faced extensive looting.

Many other historic sites in Syria have been threatened by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, which has also control of the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

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