Shocking new pictures released by Islamic State show the destruction of a 2,000-year-old temple in the Syrian city of Palmyra.
Just a single arch of the ancient Temple of Bel still stands after the terrorists filled it with explosives and razed it to the ground.
The photographs, published in the terror group’s English language magazine, Dabiq, are the first showing the aftermath of the demolition.
ISIS, which has already blown up several ancient sites in neighbouring Iraq, overran the city in May and last month murdered retired archaeologist Khaled Asaad, 82, who worked as head of antiquities there for more than 50 years.
The terrorists went on to destroy the Temple of Baalshamin in the complex and then blew up the larger Temple of Bel days later at the end of August.
The whole of Palmyra, including the four cemeteries outside the walls of the ancient city, has been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO since 1980.
Earlier this month, before and after satellite images showed how the main building of the Temple of Bel had been destroyed. They proved it was still standing on August 27.
The new photographs show jihadis carrying blue containers – seemingly containing explosives – into the temple – one of the most prominent structures in a sprawling Roman-era complex – the explosion and the aftermath.
ISIS, which has imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across its self-declared ‘caliphate’ straddling Syria and Iraq, says such ancient relics promote idolatry.
The Temple of Bel, dating back to 32AD, shows a unique merging of ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture.
It is dedicated to the Semitic god Bel and is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the first century.
The temple consisted of a central shrine within a colonnaded courtyard with a large gateway, within a complex that has other ruins, including an amphitheatre and some tombs.
It stood out among the ruins not far from the colonnades of Palmyra, which is known by Syrians as the ‘Bride of the Desert’.
Palmyra was an important caravan city of the Roman Empire, linking it to India, China, and Persia.
Before the outbreak of Syria’s conflict in March 2011, the UNESCO site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East.
Recent satellite images also appear to confirm reports that the terror group has blown up three ancient tower tombs in Palmyra.
One of them was that of Elahbel, built in 103AD, which Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said was four storeys high and had an underground floor.
In its listing, the UN agency singles out the tower tombs as the ‘oldest and most distinctive’ of Palmyra’s funerary monuments – ‘tall multi-storey sandstone buildings belonging to the richest families’.
Abdulkarim said the Tower of Jambalik, built in 83AD was also destroyed, along with the Tower of Ketout, built in 44AD and famed for the vivid scenes etched into its walls.
As the battle rages on in Aleppo, the ongoing clashes have caused damage to the UNESCO-listed Old City.
The eighth-century Great Mosque of Aleppo and Aleppo Citadel are reportedly at risk.
Meanwhile elsewhere in Syria, Saint Simeon Church and the 11th-century Crac des Chevaliers have taken a battering.
A film of ISIS militants destroying Nimrud in northern Iraq was released in April 2015 with jihadists pledging to remove all signs of idolatry.
Lauded for its frescoes, Nimrud’s ancient ruins and relics that dated back 3,000 years were bulldozed.The losses were confirmed by The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
However, in 1845 British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard took six pairs of statues of lions and bulls from Nimrud which can now be found in the British Museum.
This circular fortified city is distinguished by its decorative architecture. Built by the successors to Alexander the Great, Hatra was capital of the first Arab Kingdom.
It withstood invasions by the Romans in AD 116 and 198 due to its high walls and towers.
Witnesses reported that the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra was razed by ISIS in March 2015.
The Director-General of Unesco, Irina Bokova, and Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), issued a joint statement of outrage immediately after the attacks.
They said: ‘The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing underway in Iraq.
‘This is a direct attack against the history of Islamic Arab cities, and it confirms the role of destruction of heritage in the propaganda of extremists groups.’
The partial damage to Khorsabad is another loss for archaeological circles to bear.
King Sargon II constructed the new capital in 721BC and in March 2015 his palace was reportedly looted and destroyed.
Mosul’s cultural legacy has been ripped apart by ISIS with Mosul Museum, Mosul Library and Jonah’s tomb all attacked.
Iraq’s second largest museum had contained collections from Hatra and Ninevah. Most of these sculptures were destroyed.
The library had housed 18th Century manuscripts and Ottoman era books which were reportedly burned.
The holy site of Jonah’s tomb inside the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus is significant in Christianity and has also been devastated by ISIS.
However, in recent months as the dust begins to settle on the ruptured foundations of the tourism sites and museums rocked by ISIS, 2,000-year-old relics looted from these ancient sites in Iraq and Syria are starting to turn up on eBay.
By Jenny Stanton For Mailonline
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