Two days after the reported destruction by Islamic State (IS) militants of the ancient temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria, dramatic photos from the scene were posted online. The images show barrels of explosives being rigged at the temple, its explosion, and the rubble left in the wake.
Reports stated that IS fighters blew up the 2,000-year old building, just days after beheading the Syrian city’s retired antiquities chief.
Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, said the “true intent of such attacks” was to “deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history.”
“One week after the killing of Professor Khaled al-Assaad, the archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra’s ruins for four decades, this destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity,” she added.
News that the jihadists detonated explosives in the UNESCO-listed site’s Baal Shamin temple emerged on Sunday, causing significant damage to its interior and collapsing some of its columns, Syrian Antiquities and Museums Department head Maamoun Abdulkarim told a number of media outlets, including the state-run SANA news agency
Syrian archaeologist Cheikmous Ali, founder of the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA), told VICE News that the temple, which was originally dedicated to the sun god of pre-Islamic Palmyra, had been partly destroyed by IS “savages.”
The group seized Palmyra from government forces in May, prompting fears for the two millennia old Roman-era ruins on the modern town’s outskirts, as well as antiquities displayed in its museum. IS enforces an extreme interpretation of Islamic law in its self-styled “caliphate” and brands statues and other historical artifacts as idolatrous.