PARIS, 25th December 2015 (WAM) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has condemned the destruction of parts of the ancient Syrian city of Bosra, in Daraa province, in fighting two days ago, alerting the world art market to potential trafficking in artefacts from the World Heritage site.

The Syrian regime’s helicopters bombed the ancient castle listed by Unesco as a world heritage site as it tried to root out rebel fighters who recently captured the town, classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site for its historic citadel, ruins and well-preserved Roman theatre, according to reports cited yesterday by the British newspaper The Guardian.

The town has been in the hands of Bashar al-Assad’s troops throughout the four-year-old conflict and was considered to be a stronghold of pro-government forces in the Syrian southern province of Daraa.

“The destructions sustained by Bosra represent a further escalation in the horror of war and must be stopped at once to allow the concerned parties to consolidate the agreement reached on the ground to preserve the irreplaceable heritage of Bosra,” Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova said of the site containing Roman, Byzantine and Muslim ruins, including a magnificent 2nd century Roman theatre.

Further deterioration is feared due to severe damage to the western courtyard adjacent to the theatre and to parts of the Ayyubid citadel surrounding it.

The theatre, exceptional due to its architecture and state of conservation, was most probably built under Trajan, who ruled the Roman Empire from 98 C.E. to 177 C.E. Between 481 and 1251, it became part of the fortifications of a powerful citadel guarding the road to Damascus.

“The Roman theatre of Bosra embodies the rich diversity of the identity of the people of Syria and I call on culture professionals worldwide, and particularly on the art market, to be extremely vigilant so as to fight against the traffic in artefacts from Bosra,” Bokova added.

Bosra, once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia and an important stopover on the ancient caravan route to Mecca, was inscribed on Unesco’s World Heritage List in 1980.

“The key surviving monuments of Bosra reflect the outstanding universal value of the site,” the agency said then.