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IS demolishes more monuments in ancient Syrian city

DAMASCUS: The militant Islamic State (IS) group has demolished more treasured monuments in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, a month after recapturing it from government forces, according to the country’s antiquities chief.

The news is a fresh blow for the Unesco World Heritage site, which had already been ravaged by the militant group during the nine months it held the site before being expelled in March last year.

“Local sources told us that 10 days ago Daesh IS destroyed the tetrapylon,” a 16-columned structure that marked one end of the ancient city’s colonnade, Maamoun Abdulkarim said on Friday.

“Yesterday (Thursday), we received satellite photographs from our colleagues at Boston University showing damage to the facade of the Roman amphitheatre,” he added.

Before being forced out of Palmyra in a Russian-backed offensive in March, IS razed world-famous temples and tower tombs at the site.

The tetrapylon, built during the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd Century AD, consisted of four sets of four pillars each supporting massive stone cornices.

The monument had suffered considerable damage over the centuries and only one of the 16 pillars was still standing in its original Egyptian pink granite.

The rest were cement replicas erected by the antiquities department in 1963.

The Roman amphitheatre dates to the 1st Century AD and was used by IS for public executions during its occupation of the city between May 2015 and March last year.

“From the first day, I was bracing myself for a terrible outcome,” Abdul­karim said. “We had already witnes­sed the terror of the first occupation and frankly I had never thought that the city would be occupied for a second time.”

IS recaptured Palmyra late last year as Syria’s government waged a fierce battle to take back all of the northern city of Aleppo from rebel forces.

The surprise fall of Palmyra, in the central province of Homs, gave IS a propaganda boost as it faced twin assaults on two of its key strongholds Raqa in Syria and Iraq’s second city Mosul.

Syrian forces have battled to prevent further IS advances around Palmyra, and on Thursday fierce clashes between pro-government fighters and militants near a military airport in the region left 30 dead, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 regime forces and 18 IS militants had been killed in the fighting by the Tayfur military airport in Homs province.

Despite its progress around Palmyra, IS lost nearly a quarter of its territory in Syria and Iraq last year, the research firm IHS Markit said on Thursday.

The militant group is just one of the many forces involved in Syria’s complex conflict, which began with anti-government demonstrations in March 2011 and has killed more than 310,000 people since then.

The war has drawn in foreign powers including government ally Russia and a US-led coalition battling IS and other militants.

Late on Thursday, air strikes killed more than 40 militants from the former Al Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front in the west of Aleppo province, the Observatory said.

Courtesy : Dawn News



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