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Syrian Missiles Damage Ancient Palmyra Site

The attack, which took place on Saturday, damaged the thick northern wall running alongside the Temple of Bel-Shamin.

Published: 17th June 2015 07:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th June 2015 07:59 AM   |  A+A-

CAIRO: An air strike by the Syrian regime has caused damage in the world famous ancient city of Palmyra, according to local residents.

The attack, which took place on Saturday, damaged the thick northern wall running alongside the Temple of Bel-Shamin, said sources in the area.

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) seized Palmyra from government control last month.

Despite fears that the militants would smash the ruins as an act of propaganda, the site appears to have been left untouched by the jihadists, apparently in an attempt to curry favour with local residents.

"This [attack] was done by the Syrian regime. But we don't know why as there was nothing to hit apart from the ruins. There is no Isil in the area: they are all at least two kilometres away," a resident who gave his name as Osama Alkhateb told The Daily Telegraph.

This would not be the first time the Syrian regime has been responsible for damage at the site during the country's four year-long civil war.

In 2013, troops fortified within the ancient ruins and ensuing clashes resulted in damage to exterior walls and the collapse of several columns within the sand-coloured Temple of Bel.

Regime troops have also been complicit - and sometimes directly involved - in looting at Palmyra, and other sites.

"Palmyra has been looted and extensively damaged, but this was long before Isil came into the picture," said Brian Daniels, a director of research at University of Pennsylvania Museum who works on a project training Syrians to protect artefacts.

Last month, Unesco expressed deep concern over reports of fighting around Palmyra, a site that once sat at the heart of the third century Queen Zenobia's empire. Its undulating ruins include colonnaded streets and the temple of Baal, a deity worshipped in many ancient Middle East communities.

Regime damage to priceless cultural artefacts continued on Monday, after a barrel bomb packed with explosives hit an archaeological museum in the north Syrian city of Maarat al-Numaan. Photographs from a site showed thick chunks of rubble spilling through the hole in an outside wall.

Michael Danti, an archaeologist at Boston University, said the strike was typical of President Bashar al-Assad regime's "deliberate targeting of heritage using barrel bombs, conventional air strikes, and artillery"



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