Many sites and archaeological and historical monuments related to various civilizations and cultures which date back to thousands of years, are distributed in Idlib governorate and northern countryside of Aleppo. The most important of which is Ebla (Tal Mardikh), which is one of the most important archaeological sites belonging to the periods of ancient bronze in Syria, in addition to the so-called dead or forgotten cities listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Regulations since 2011, which constitute eight archaeological parks, five of which are located within the administrative borders of Idlib, including al-Bara, Barisha and al-Ma'ara.
These forgotten cities are archaeological and historical sites and their number is approximately 780, including about 2,000 churches, distributed in a geographical area extending in a length of 140 km² and a width ranging between 20-40 km², including landmarks and sites located within the borders of Afrin, such as Nebi Huri (Cyrrhus), Barrad and Qalaat Semaan, whose cathedral was considered as one of the largest churches in the world at the time.
That spot, especially the city of Idlib, was transformed into a battleground since 2012 between the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition groups, which includes in its ranks many "radical" Islamist groups. During this period, the region witnessed many fierce battles between the two sides on the one hand, and among the fighting groups on the other hand, which have affected on the cultural properties which have become along with the lives of thousands of people, victims to the conflict and the existing chaos that these areas lived.
Estimates indicate that about 500, and possibly more, of these monuments and sites have been subjected to various damages due to the bombing of heavy weapons or as a result of the illegal excavation, retrieval and selling of its archaeological stones, building offences, housing for civilian refugees, sweeping and opening roads within some of these cities and archaeological sites, constructing tunnels and fortification networks, or as a result of using some of these sites as military bases or training camps, in addition to the deliberate destruction of some of these monuments with ideological motives, as happened to the site of Deir Sunbul by "radical" organizations.
In addition to all of this, Idlib Museum, which was opened in 1989, also suffered from material damage as a result of the aerial bombardment, as it contained thousands of artifacts belonging to various sites in Idlib, its contents were looted in several stages without knowing its details yet. Also, Maarat al-Numan Historical Museum (Khan Murad Pasha), which is one of the largest mosaic museums in the orient, was severely damaged due to bombing operations, which affected it three times periodically since the beginning of the crisis. There are approximately 2,000 m² of mosaic panels which have been previously shown or not shown in Maarat al-Numan Museum, which depict various scenes, perhaps the most important of them is Hercules painting.
It is truly pity to hear this unique and distinguished cultural wealth in Idlib and in the northern countryside of Aleppo, nicknamed the dead cities, fading and disappearing despite the great efforts shown by some specialists in those areas in order to preserve this wealth.
These areas, the region of Idlib in particular, have turned into a hotbed of conflict without regard of any of the conflicting sides to the importance of the cultural property scattered throughout, and the proliferation of local smuggling networks in light of the spread of chaos and lack of control, along with the facilities provided by some armed groups to the weak souls of civilians of the military and the civilians giving them the green light to search for treasures in exchange for a certain percentage of money, as well as the absence of the cultural-archaeological awareness factor among most citizens, especially in rural people, in addition to the facilities provided by the Turkish antiques dealers to the local smuggling networks in Idlib and the absence of the effective control by the Turkish regime on the Syrian-Turkish border, all of this contributed to the destruction of these forgotten cities.