Islamic State Jihadists On Verge Of Overrunning Ancient Syrian City Of Palmyra
One of the world’s most important historical sites is about to be dynamited by the Islamic State.
Islamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadists have already wreaked in Iraq.
IS fighters were battling Syrian troops less than two kilometres (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, Syria’s director of antiquities said.
The jihadists reached the oasis town after a lightning advance across the desert in which they overran government forces in fierce fighting that cost the lives of 110 combatants, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Palmyra is under threat,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
Antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim said he was in touch with colleagues still in Palmyra every half hour.
“IS has not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter,” Abdulkarim told AFP.
UNESCO describes Palmyra as a heritage site of “outstanding universal value”.
The ancient city stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilisations and its 1st and 2nd century temples and colonnaded streets mark a unique blend of Graeco-Roman and Persian influences.