In August 2011 an Aramaic statuette of inestimable value disappeared. "We also have incontrovertible proof of the regime's responsibility in the damaging of many archaeological sites," Prof. Savioli states. The professor has many years' experience as an archaeologist and topographer in the country. The UN agency charged with safeguarding cultural heritage, UNESCO, publically called on the Syrian authorities on March 30 to keep guard of the sites on its territory. "The purpose of this reminder was not simply to attempt to stop the theft taking place, but also to call on the Syrian government not to destroy its own artistic heritage," Professor Savioli told ANSA. Much video proof exists of the destruction carried out by Syrian government troops. These have been published on the internet over recent months and they show government tanks and artillery opening fire on ancient buildings, such as the crusaders' castle at Crac des Chevaliers (Homs), the ancient fortress of Qalat al Madiq (Hama), the arcaded way of Apamea (Hama), the Assyrian temple of Tell Sheikh Hamad (Dayr az Zor).
Severe damage has also been inflicted on the ancient city of Emesa (Homs), the mosques of al Omari in Daraa and la Khaled ben Walid of Homs, the ancient suq in the same city where even the Orthodox church of the Madonna of the Girdle, so-called because of the belt found under the altar, belonging to the Virgin, according to tradition. Syria's official media accuses "Sunni terrorists" of threatening Christian places of worship, but numerous video evidence show damage being inflicted on two churches in Homs by government troops. According to Professor Savioli, "In some cases, the defacement and attacks appear planned". The regime says it is hitting terrorist strongholds. But the Padua-based archaeologist asks: "Why knock down the walls of a fortress or of a mosque with cannon fire from a tank? In the case of the colonnades of Apamea, there is no sight of rebels in the video.
At most a farmer or a couple of goats...". The archaeologists are also denouncing damage to and even the complete destruction of sites through the digging of trenches close to sites, or the setting up of military encampments within them, as in the cases of Tell di Khan Shaykhun (Idlib), of Qalat ibn Maan near Palmira (Homs) and of Tell in Hama, whose walls were once attacked by the Syrian King Sargon II in 720 B.C. The regime claims it is deploying the army around the sites to protect them. "Then why have they driven tanks to the summit of the Tell or dug trenches along the base of the walls?" Savioli asks. "This is how to destroy these sites". (ANSAmed).