IS accused of “intolerable crime against humanity” as Palmyra’s historic arch destroyed

Palmyra arch

Another architectural treasure in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, has been destroyed by IS militants.

The 2,000-year-old Roman arch of triumph has been blown, the country’s antiquities chief has said.

Maamoun Abdulkarim said local sources had confirmed that the arch had been virtually destroyed in the latest attack on one of the most important ancient sites in the world, home to structures dating back millennia.


Unesco, the United Nations heritage agency, has called the destruction an “intolerable crime against civilisation”.

The arch was one of the most recognisable sites in Palmyra, the city affectionately known by Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert,” which IS seized in May.

It sat on top of the famed colonnaded streets of the ancient city, which linked the Roman Empire to Persia and the East.

An opposition activist who uses the name Khaled al-Homsi posted on Twitter that the militants destroyed the arch.

He is a nephew of Khaled al-Asaad, the 81-year-old antiquities scholar and long-time director of the Palmyra site who relatives and witnesses say was beheaded by IS militants in August.

Al Homsi, an archaeologist and human rights activist, tweeted a photograph of the monument taken in the 19th century (pictured above), then posted that the main central arch and two supporting ones on either side were now gone.

#Palmyra #ISIS just blew up the triumphal arch in the ancient city. Here it is in 1880″

He then added: “#SavePalmyra #Isis blows up the #Triumphal Arch at entrance to colonnade today.”

The historian and writer Tom Holland retweeted Al Homsi’s message, saying: “Oh no … Palmyra.”

The IS Sunni extremists have imposed a violent interpretation of Islamic law across a self-declared “caliphate,” declaring ancient relics promote idolatry and saying they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism.

However, they are also believed to sell off looted antiquities, bringing in significant sums of cash.

In recent weeks, IS militants blew up two famed temples in Palmyra. Satellite images showed the temples, each nearly 2,000 years old, reduced to rubble. Three ancient tower tombs were also eradicated.

The temple of Baalshamin, a structure of giant stone blocks several stories high fronted by six towering columns, was dedicated to a god of storm and rain – the name means literally “Lord of the Heavens”.

The even larger and slightly older Temple of Bel, dating back to 32 AD, was a unique merging of ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture.

It was dedicated to the 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 amphitheater and some tombs.

The IS targeting of priceless cultural artefacts has sparked global outrage and accusations of war crimes.


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