Satellite Photos Show Hundreds of Syrian Heritage Sites Damaged In Ongoing Fighting

The new satellite photos show the extent of the damage

Shrine to Uwais al-Qurani and Ammar Bin Yasser. Before: October 12, 2011.
Shrine to Uwais al-Qurani and Ammar Bin Yasser. After: October 6, 2014. All three tombs on the outside of the shrine, their minarets and a section of the linking arcaded pricinct have been destroyed.
Old City of Aleppo. Before: November 21, 2010.
Old City of Aleppo. After: October 22, 2014. Multiple historical sites destroyed as seen in the upper left section of the image, such as the Carlton hotel, where craters are present. Other damaged locations include the Great Umayd Mosque in the lower right corner of the image. Minaret of the Great Mosque has been destroyed, in addition to severe damage to the wall and courtyard.
North & Northwest Necropolis at Palmyra. Before: October 10, 2009.
North & Northwest Necropolis at Palmyra. After: October 26, 2014. A road has been constructed that runs through the necropolis. This road has affected multiple tombs in the necropololis. Archeological soils from alongside the road have been used to create a dirt barriers on both sides of the new road. Several berms have also been constructed throughout the necropolis and can be seen in the lower left and upper right side of the image. There is also a large berm which has been constructed in the north of the image.
The East Wall at Dura Europos. Before: September 4, 2011.
The East Wall at Dura Europos. After: April 2, 2014. Signs of severe looting can be seen within the walls of Dura Europos, most of the ruins have become unrecognizable from the looting activity. Additional looting holes are visible in the northern section of the image outside the walls of Dura Europs.

It's no secret that ancient Syrian relics and heritage sites can be counted among the many victims in the country's ongoing civil war. Smugglers, looters and even government forces have been seen stealing ancient artifacts—trading history for cash and guns. Though some of the damage to historical sites can hardly be helped—heavy fighting on the streets has taken its toll on Aleppo, one of the world's oldest cities—the damage has been far more widespread.

In a new report compiled by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, UNITAR, the agency used satellite observations to get a sense of scale of the damage. According to a release, the organization found that 24 sites had been completely destroyed, 104 were severely damaged, 85 were moderately damage, and 77 ranked as “possibly damaged.”

According to Reuters, some of the damage was circumstantial—ancient fortresses can still make good modern-day bunkers...

Both sides in the conflict have used ancient fortresses as military bases. The army has positioned snipers on Aleppo's Citadel, one of the oldest and largest castles in the world.

Insurgent forces also overran the 900-year-old Crac des Chevaliers Crusader castle. The army retook it in March but only after months of bombardment.

…while some of it was more deliberate:

Radical Sunni Muslim insurgents have also destroyed ancient sites which they consider to be heretical.

The damaged sites, says the release, include “[a]reas such as Aleppo, where settlements have been in place for over 7,000 years, Damascus, Crac des Chevaliers, Raqqa and Palmyra.”

In the photos and captions above, released by the UN, you can see before and after photographs of a few of the damaged sites.