Syria’s Palmyra in Danger

Syria’s Palmyra in DangerSyria’s Palmyra in Danger

Islamic State fighters seized the northern part of the ancient World Heritage-listed city of Palmyra in Syria, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said a third of Palmyra had been taken after battles with government forces, BBC said in a report.

Militants seized part of the town of Tadmur located on a strategic east-west route next to Palmyra on Saturday but had been pushed back from the ruins.

Palmyra contains architecture of one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, according to Unesco. Syria’s antiquities chief said hundreds of statues had been moved to safety.

The fighters have not reached the ruins which are in the south-west of Palmyra.

IS has ransacked and demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, including Hatra and Nimrud leading to fears that it might attempt to damage or destroy Palmyra’s. The site - known as the Bride of the Desert - features a colonnaded street, major public buildings and funerary monuments.

It dates back to the 1st and 2nd century, mixing Greco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. The militants have seized oil and gas facilities in the region - capturing the city would also be an important strategic gain.

But the world’s focus is on the ruins and IS has luxuriated in devastating and destroying similarly priceless, pre-Islamic archeological treasures in Iraq.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the government has called for volunteers to confront IS fighters there to help retake the city of Ramadi.