Palmyra’s Temple of Bel ‘destroyed’

Palmyra’s Temple of Bel ‘destroyed’

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A satellite image confirms that the main temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra has been destroyed, the United Nations says.
There had been earlier reports of an explosion at the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which is held by militants from Islamic State (IS).
Syria’s antiquities chief had earlier said the basic structure of the 2,000-year-old site was intact.
But UN satellite analysts Unosat say the image shows almost nothing remains.“Unfortunately, the images we acquired do show that the main building of the temple has been destroyed,” Einar Bjorgo, Unosat’s manager, told the BBC early on Tuesday.
He added that a set of columns nearby had also been destroyed.
On Monday, Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Syrian Department of Antiquities and Museums, had said the Temple of Bel suffered a large explosion, but that he believed most of the site had remained intact.
Witnesses had struggled, however, to get close to the site to confirm the extent of the damage.
Last week, it was confirmed that another site at Palmyra, the Baalshamin temple, had been blown up.
Unosat released satellite images on Monday showing the extent of the damage to Baalshamin, proving that parts were heavily damaged or completely destroyed.
IS militants seized control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears for the World Heritage site.
The world-famous Greco-Roman ruins are in the desert north-east of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The Temple of Bel is dedicated to the Palmyrene gods and was one of the best-preserved parts of the ancient city.
IS has previously targeted historical sites in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, regarding their ancient temples and sculptures as heretical.
Ancient city of Palmyra
•    Unesco World Heritage site
•    Site contains monumental ruins of great city, once one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world
•    Art and architecture, from the 1st and 2nd Centuries, combine Greco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences
•    Site boasts a number of monumental projects, more than 1,000 columns, and a formidable necropolis of more than 500 tombs
•    More than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year before the Syrian conflict- BBC News

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