United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says war is ripping Syria's rich cultural heritage to shreds.
In a joint statement with U.N. cultural chief Irina Bokova and special representative Lakhdar Brahimi, Ban said Wednesday that World Heritage sites in Syria have suffered considerable and sometimes irreversible damage.
Some sites have been turned into battlegrounds, including the ancient city of Palmyra, a 5,000-year-old palace near Aleppo, and 1,500-year-old Saint Simeon Church.
The officials say looting and illegal trafficking of cultural objects are at unprecedented levels.
The statement says both Christian and Muslim sites are under attack. It says destroying such precious heritage gravely affects Syria's identity and history and all humanity.