Thousands of Jewish heritage sites in Iraq and Syria on military protection list

Experts want important sites to be protected during conflict


This picture shows a partial view of the ruins of the ancient settlement of Al-Bara, just outside the northwestern Syrian town of the same name, in the rebel-held part of Idlib province, on December 27, 2020. - Al-Bara is one of dozens of archeological settlements that make up the so-called "Dead Cities" in northwest Syria, which shed light on rural life during late antiquity and the Byzantine period. Since the Syrian civil war outbreak in 2011, a great number of structures have been damaged. Al-Bara site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List within the file of the archeological villages in northern Syria, and it was included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2013. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP) (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images)

Researchers from the UK, US and Israel have listed more than 2,000 “nationally and important Jewish heritage sites” in Iraq and Syria that they say should be protected during military conflict.

The list was compiled by the UK based Foundation for Jewish Heritage (FJH), the Center for Jewish Art (CJA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR).

The three groups said the list had been sent to “trusted military partners representing European and western powers, including the UK Ministry of Defence, who are known to operate in good faith and to uphold the principles of international law”.

Intentional damage to cultural property and buildings dedicated to religion can be a war crime, prosecutable at the International Criminal Court.

FJH chair Dame Helen Hyde said: “We are delighted that these important Jewish heritage sites will receive this protection in the event of war. It is another example of how our unprecedented Jewish heritage research work has demonstrated its value.”

Chief executive Michael Mail said: “Preserving cultural heritage in conflict zones is now recognised internationally as a major concern and significant Jewish heritage sites should also receive the benefit of being identified and safeguarded in this way.”

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