The Courier-Mail

Tem­ple of boom

Ji­hadist van­dals level another his­toric site

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DAMASCUS: A new satel­lite im­age shows that de­praved ji­hadists have de­stroyed one of the world’s most his­toric sites.

The photos con­firm the an­cient Tem­ple of Bel in the Syr­ian city of Palmyra has been de­stroyed, a day af­ter a mas­sive ex­plo­sion was set off near the 2000-year-old tem­ple in the city oc­cu­pied by ISIS mil­i­tants.

Ear­lier, Maamoun Ab­dulka­rim, the head of the An­tiq­ui­ties and Mu­se­ums in Damascus, said there was con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion about the fate of the tem­ple, one of the most prom­i­nent struc­tures in a sprawl­ing Ro­man­era com­plex, be­cause eye­wit­nesses were un­able to ap­proach the site.

But Ei­nar Bjorgo, man­ager of Geneva-based UN satel­lite an­a­lysts UNOSAT, said a satel­lite im­age “un­for­tu­nately shows the de­struc­tion of the tem­ple’s main build­ing as well as a row of col­umns in its im­me­di­ate vicin­ity”. UNOSAT based its find­ings af­ter com­par­ing the im­age with one taken on Au­gust 27 which showed the main build­ing and col­umns still in­tact.

The ISIS group, which cap­tured Palmyra from forces loyal to Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad in May, de­stroyed the smaller Tem­ple of Baal­sham in the com­plex last week and posted im­ages of the de­struc­tion days later. UNESCO con­demned the act as a war crime.

Ac­tivists, in­clud­ing a Palmyra res­i­dent, said ear­lier that an ISIS bomb­ing ex­ten­sively dam­aged the Tem­ple of Bel on Sun­day. The res­i­dent de­scribed a mas­sive ex­plo­sion, adding that he saw pic­tures of the dam­age but could not get near the site.

An ISIS op­er­a­tive says mil­i­tants det­o­nated ex­plo­sives near the tem­ple, with­out elab­o­rat­ing on how much of it was dam­aged.

Res­i­dents in Palmyra told the Syr­ian state news agency that ISIS mil­i­tants de­stroyed large parts of the tem­ple and booby-trapped other parts, ex­press­ing con­cern that they plan to de­stroy the rest soon.

Amr al-Azm, a for­mer Syr­ian an­tiq­ui­ties of­fi­cial says the de­struc­tion of the tem­ple was “the most dev­as­tat­ing act yet in my opin­ion”.

“It truly demon­strates ISIS’s abil­ity to act with im­punity and the im­po­tence of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to stop them,” Mr al-Azm said.

The Tem­ple of Bel, dat­ing back to 32AD, shows a unique merg­ing of an­cient ncient Near Eastern and d Greco- Ro­man n ar­chi­tec­ture.

It is ded­i­cated to the Semitic god Bel and iss con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant re­li­gious build- ings of the first t cen­tury.

 ??  ?? BEL TOLLS: Satel­lite im­ages show the tem­ple in­tact (above) and com­pletely flat­tened (inset left); and the tem­ple’s fa­mous col­umns in 2014.
BEL TOLLS: Satel­lite im­ages show the tem­ple in­tact (above) and com­pletely flat­tened (inset left); and the tem­ple’s fa­mous col­umns in 2014.
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