The stealing of archaeological ruins has become a lucrative source of income for pro-Iran militias deployed in the Deir Ezzor region in eastern Syria, revealed the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Scattered along the banks of the area's Euphrates and Khabour Rivers are hundreds of historic archaeological sites, such as caves, cities, and mounds, from the Aramaic, Roman and Islamic eras, among others.
The ruins have suffered from neglect and have been vandalized over the years by all forces that have swept through the region during Syria's decade-long conflict. At times the area was under the control of the regime, the Iranian militias and previously the ISIS group that was guilty of looting and destroying much of the ruins.
Sources from the Observatory said the militias have recently sought to steal and loot much of the historic sites in the area for material gain.
Among the targeted sites are the ruins in Bouqras in Deir Ezzor's eastern countryside. Known as the Mureybet Tell, the mound was an ancient residential region that existed before major empires emerged in the world.
Another victim of looting is the al-Asharah mound that dates back to the first Babylonian age. The ruins in al-Salhiyeh in the Alboukamal region, the Tabous mound in the western Deir Ezzor countryside, the al-Qalaa al-Rahba mound and others have all been looted and damaged by the Iranian militias.
Two years ago, the Deir Ezzor 24 network had reported that the commander of the Iranian militias dispatched a 20-member unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to dig up ruins in al-Salhiyeh. The ruins ended up being damaged because the military forces are not specialized in handling ancient artifacts.