Militants have stolen gold and stone artifacts from the ancient city of Ebla in the southeastern part of the so-called Greater Idlib region, the director of Hama’s department of culture, Hazer Aylu, told RIA Novosti on April 21.
Ebla, the capital of an influential state that existed in the III-II millennia BC, fell under militnats’ control in the early years of the Syrian conflict.
According to Aylu, militants may have occupied the ancient city upon orders from artifacts’ traffickers interested in looting the ruins.
“We think that the militants didn’t decide to occupy the ancient city by themselves. Someone sent them there. Most likely, they were traders of ancient artifacts. They arrived and began to purposefully search for the tomb of the rulers of Ebla, they wanted to find jewelry. Dozens of golden and stone artifacts were stolen,” Aylu said, adding “The militants inflicted huge damage on the city.”
Starting as a small settlement in the Early Bronze Age, Ebla developed into a trading empire controlling much of northern and eastern Syria. Artifacts from Sumer, Cyprus, Egypt and as far as Afghanistan were recovered from the city’s palaces.
The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) liberated Ebla, located near Tell Mardikh, earlier this year. There, the army found that the militants established a military camp right on the ruins of the ancient city.
“There was a base, headquarters, a training ground and shelters for equipment. A whole military camp for 1,500 people. They also buried armored vehicles and pickups under the ground. They chose this place because it was closed on all sides by ramparts and here you can hide,” an SAA officer told RIA Novosti.
Aylu hoped that Russian specialists could help restore the ancient city. A unit of Russian sappers will soon set off to clear the city from war remnants.
The looting of archaeological sites and artifacts trafficking is a main source of income for militants in Syria. Terrorist groups and Turkish-backed factions have been involved in such criminal activities for years now.