UNESCO: Significant damage to ancient Palmyra, but integrity intact

Important parts of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, were demolished by the Islamic State militant group but the site still retains "a large part of its integrity," experts from UNESCO said Wednesday.

The Baal Shamin temple was "smashed to smithereens" along with Palmyra's triumphal arch, the experts from the UN's cultural arm said in a report following a mission to the ancient city from April 24-26.

Statues and sarcophagi too large to be removed from the site's museum and safely hidden were also smashed and defaced, UNESCO said. A full report on damage to the site will be released in July.

But "despite the destruction of several iconic edifices, the archaeological site of Palmyra retains a large part of its integrity and authenticity," the report added.

In March, Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes recaptured Palmyra, a World Heritage Site, from the Islamic State, marking a major victory for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The extremist group was thought to have blown up the Baal Shamin temple and demolished parts of the temple of Bel. They were also thought to have damaged seven tower tombs that stood outside the ancient city - destroying three of them, including the Tower of Elahbel and the Tower of Jamblique, completely.

The group was not able to reach the temple of Bel of the Mamluk Citadel, as demining operations are still underway.

"Palmyra is a pillar of Syrian identity, and a source of dignity for all Syrians. UNESCO is determined to ensure the safeguarding of this and other sites with all partners as part of broader humanitarian and peace building operations," UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said.

Last update: Wed, 27/04/2016 - 15:58
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