The Facebook page “Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger” (“Syrian Archaeological Ruins in Danger”) released an internal Syrian government memo discussing a large-scale antiquities looting operation being set up by “professional international gangs.” The letter, sent from the prime minister to the ministers of culture and finance, warned that gangs had already brought into the country “equipment and satellite communication for stealing manuscripts and robbing museums, safes, and banks.”
Syria is particularly susceptible to museum looting. The government has publicized its antiquities museums to promote foreign tourism and has also kept major artifacts in provincial museums near the original excavation sites. The threat is similar to those posed by large-scale looting operations at the start of the Iraq War; it is assumed that similar criminal networks are involved in Syrian black market operations. After a long year of violence it is unknown whether Syria, a country whose rich archaeological heritage extends from the Neolithic to the modern era, will be able to take the necessary precautionary measures to safeguard its museums.