Syrian Official: No Damage Done to Palmyra

May 26, 2015  

Syria’s antiquities chief said on Tuesday that the historic city of Palmyra had been unharmed since Islamic State (ISIS) insurgents seized it last week.

Speaking to Reuters, Maamoun Abdulkarim said he was still afraid the jihadist group would blow up Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old Roman ruins, including tombs and the Temple of Bel, which could be viewed as idolatrous in its puritanical vision of Islam.

Still, he told the news agency by phone, “the historic city is fine. There is no damage so far”.

Abdulkarim cited contacts with people on the ground in the central Syrian city. Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A short video posted by an account supportive of Islamic State on YouTube last week claimed to show Palmyra after the jihadists took control.

The footage, mostly filmed without sound and people, showed the Palmyra’s ancient citadel, columns, coliseum, buildings and walls. One shot showed black smoke rising behind ancient ruins but it did not appear that any of the historical sites had been obviously damaged.

Syrian state TV on Sunday reported that about 400 civilians were massacred by ISIS since last Wednesday, while activists in Palmyra said that ISIS fighters hunted down President Bashar al-Assad’s troops and loyalists, killing up to 300 of them.

With the Syrian army retreat from Palmyra, there has been talk of the Assad’s regime being forced to accept the de facto division of Syria.

Reportedly 10-15% of Syria’s population is now in areas controlled by ISIS – which geographically controls around half of the country’s landmass, much of which is sparsely populated – while 20-25% are in territory controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front or other rebel groups, and another 5-10% are in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

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