Artifacts from the ancient Jobar synagogue in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta suburb have been smuggled out of Syria and surfaced elsewhere, including in Israel, activists say.
Local activists said the artifacts had been put into safety back in 2013 to avoid theft and damage by Takfiri terrorists, but Syrian officials discovered later that some of the items had disappeared.
The first missing cache, which contained torahs, tapestries and chandeliers, was given to the Faylaq al-Rahman militant group by Jobar’s local council for safe keeping earlier this year, according to the activists.
However, the militant outfit later said that it was not in possession of the objects taken from the Jobar synagogue, also known as Eliyahu Hanaviuntil synagogue.
The second cache, the activists said, had been stolen in 2014 by a Syrian guardian entrusted by the local council to hide the items from the synagogue.
Hassan al-Dimashqi, who lived near the synagogue until March, said, “Some of the items that went missing in 2014 and this year have started surfacing now in Turkey.”
He also quoted some local officials as saying that the man, who stole the second cache, reached Europe and the artifacts he had taken ended up in Israel.
Dimashqi further said that some of the items entrusted with the Faylaq al-Rahman militants, including carpets, chandeliers and historical scripts, have surfaced in Turkey. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed the information.
In March, Syria filed an official complaint with the UN, accusing Israel of stealing valuable artifacts from the Jobar synagogue in cooperation with Turkey and terrorist groups.
Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari wrote to the Security Council that there was “credible evidence” showing that “the terrorist groups … active in the area of Jobar, near Damascus, cooperated with the Turkish and Israeli intelligence services to loot artifacts and manuscripts from the ancient synagogue there.”
“The items were then smuggled through local and foreign intermediaries to Istanbul, where they were received by antiquities experts who certified that they were extremely valuable antique objects. The items were subsequently smuggled to New York,” the letter read.
The Jobar synagogue, which dates back to 720 B.C., was mostly destroyed during fierce clashes between Syrian government forces and foreign-sponsored militants in May 2014.
Takfiri terrorists have lost much of the territory they once held in Syria in the face of sweeping gains by government forces on the ground.
In April, Syrian forces managed to retake the Eastern Ghouta and Eastern Qalamoun regions near the capital.
For years, the areas had served as a launch pad for deadly terror attacks against civilians in Damascus.