The Courier-Mail

Temple of boom

Jihadist vandals level another historic site


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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