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Ancient Palmyra Temple Blown Up by IS

Ancient Palmyra Temple Blown Up by ISAncient Palmyra Temple Blown Up by IS

Islamic State militants have blown up part of the Temple of Bel in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, sources have told Al Jazeera.

The militant group on Sunday detonated more than 30 tons of explosives at the temple, the largest and one of the most significant structures in the UNESCO-listed city, Al Jazeera reported.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists on the ground also said that the temple has been damaged in the blast.

The Temple of Bel stands just outside the main area of the city, whose column-lined principle street leads to its gate.

Its richly decorated central shrine area was regarded as well preserved.

The destruction comes a week after the group blew up Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin, causing much damage.

Satellite images captured several days ago have confirmed the destruction of the Roman-era Baal Shamin Temple.

“The terrorist group has destroyed parts of Bel temple in an attempt to eliminate the ancient identity of this historic city,” civil rights activist Ahmed Alwan told ARA News.

It was another important site in Palmyra, known as the “Pearl of the Desert”, a previously well-preserved archeological oasis 210 km northeast of Damascus.

Earlier this month, ISIL beheaded Khaled Asaad, a respected 82-year-old archeologist who worked for 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra.

Last Friday, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova warned that IS fighters in both Iraq and Syria were responsible for “the most brutal, systematic” destruction of ancient heritage since World War II.

IS seized Palmyra from government forces in a sudden offensive in May and is tightly controlling communications in the city, according to activists.

The group, which has proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds across Syria and Iraq, has regularly demolished monuments it considers sacrilegious and carried out mass killings.