An official of the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Wednesday said the ongoing civil war in Syria "has hit cultural heritage in all its forms at an unprecedented level." "The country is undergoing a very bad conflict that has hit cultural heritage in all its forms at an unprecedented level," said Francesco Bandarin, assistant director-general for culture of the UNESCO, while speaking at a briefing to reporters here. He listed some of the sites damaged including those placed under the protection of UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites. There were the toppling of the 11th century minaret of Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo's ancient walled city, the destructive fire in the Souk, or 17th century marketplace, in Aleppo; bombing of the preserved medieval Crusader Castle of Krak de Chevalliers, built during the 12th and 13th centuries, and damage to the city of Palmyra, which dates back to the second millennium. Aleppo is Syria's largest city and believed to be one of the world's oldest continuously populated cities. "The situation in Syria, unfortunately, is certainly not only dominated by the conflict .. but also the loss of control of the territory by governments, local governments, central governments," he said. "The consequence has been massive development of a phenomenon which we think is extremely dangerous for cultural heritage and I would say lethal to cultural heritage." He also complained that archeological digging sites had been compromised and of an increase in the illicit trafficking of valuable artifacts. The Syrian government has removed valuable antiquities in the country's museums and hidden them away for safekeeping, according to Bandarin. He added that an effort is underway to educate combatants to safeguard the past. UNESCO has also briefed authorities in neighboring nations and even Interpol on the illicit international trade of Syrian relics.