UN says ISIS destroyed ancient site in Syria’s Palmyra

UNESCO says satellite images show one of most important sites in Palmyra was destroyed by ISIS

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A satellite picture shows the site of the Temple of Bel after its apparent destruction in Palmyra, Syria, in August 31, 2015

Updated Sep 2, 2015

UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, said on Tuesday, satellite images show that the most important site in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra has been destroyed.

According to the images, the site of Bel Temple, most likely was blown up by explosives on August 30. Activists said ISIS had targeted the 2000-year-old temple.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a NGO which monitors the Syrian war through on-ground contacts, affirmed on Sunday the destruction of the important Syrian monument.  

“The main part of the temple is gone, with the exception of one part of the portal, the entrance to the temple." Head of UNESCO's cultural sector emergency preparedness and response unit, Giovanni Boccardi, said on Tuesday.

The temple was dedicated to the local god, Bel, then it was turned into a church during the Byzantine era, and after the arrival of Arabs in the region, it was turned into mosque.

The temple, which is considered a UNESCO world heritage site, has a “humanistic meaning which goes beyond the historic and even aesthetic aspects," said the UNESCO, which recognized the act of destroying the ruins as a war crime.

ISIS had seized the city of Palmyra from Syrian regime forces last May. Since then, no direct reports about what is going on in the city have surfaced. Activists said ISIS is watching and blocking communications coming from inside the city.   

ISIS declared a self-proclaimed “caliphate” in the large parts of Syria and Iraq it has taken over, and announced the northern Syrian city of Raqqa as a capital for their state in 2014.

ISIS’ militants have destroyed a lot of prominent monuments in Iraq and Syria saying that they are pagan and sacrilegious.

Over four years of fighting has left over 250,000 Syrians dead, according to the UN estimates.

At least, 6.7 million are displaced internally while more than 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.




TRTWorld and agencies