UN: Satellite Images Confirm Destruction of Palmyra Temple

UN says satellite images confirm that ISIS has destroyed yet another temple in Syrian ancient city.

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Ben Ariel,

Ancient ruins in Palmyra
Ancient ruins in Palmyra
Reuters

Satellite images confirm the destruction of another famed temple in Syria's Palmyra, the United Nations said late Monday, according to AFP.

"We can confirm destruction of the main building of the Temple of Bel as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity," the UN training and research agency UNITAR said, providing satellite images from before and after a powerful blast in the ruins of the ancient city Sunday.

The blast had already raised fears Monday that the Islamic State (ISIS) group had damaged another of the Middle East's most treasured heritage sites.

UNITAR said its satellite program put to rest any doubts that the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel had been destroyed in the blast.

A shot taken on August 27 clearly shows an erect, rectangular structure surrounded by columns, while a shot taken on Monday showed there was little left besides a few columns in the very outer edges of the site, according to AFP.

ISIS already destroyed the smaller Baal Shamin temple at Palmyra last week, confirming the worst fears about their intentions for the site, which they seized from Syrian regime forces in May.

UNITAR on Friday also presented satellite images confirming the destruction of the Baal Shamin temple, which the UN's cultural agency UNESCO called a "war crime".

In June, Islamic State blew up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which they regarded as pagan and sacrilegious. The group’s destruction of artifacts was also condemned by UNESCO in early July, and the organization described it at the time as an attempt to strip the people of their heritage in order "to enslave them".

The Sunni extremists, who have imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across their self-declared "caliphate" in territory they control in Syria and Iraq, claim ancient relics promote idolatry and say they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism.

Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim described the Temple of Bel as Palmyra's most important site, and also the most important temple in the Middle East along side Baalbek in Lebanon, according to AFP.

The destruction of the ancient temples came a week after ISIS jihadists beheaded an antiquities scholar in Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site.

The victim was Khaled Asaad, an 82-year-old who worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra.

The killing of the scholar is not the first one carried out by ISIS in Palmyra. In July, the group released a video showing 25 Syrian government soldiers being executed by teenagers in the ancient amphitheater  in the city.








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