ISIS Destroys Landmark Triumphal Arches in Palmyra, Syria

The Arch of Triumph, front, and a partial view of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, in 2010. Credit Youssef Badawi/European Pressphoto Agency
The Arch of Triumph, front, and a partial view of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, in 2010. Credit Youssef Badawi/European Pressphoto Agency

Another landmark structure in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra has been deliberately destroyed by Islamic State militants, according to local antigovernment activists and Syrian officials. The building involved this time was a set of triumphal arches, erected in the second century.

Since seizing Palmyra from government forces in May, Islamic State fighters have destroyed some of the most beautiful and historically significant monuments in the sprawling oasis city in Syria’s central desert, one of the world’s most renowned archaeological sites.

The latest to fall was the triple arch built by the Romans to celebrate a victory over the Persians, which bore ancient inscriptions and stood at the entrance to a grand colonnade.

Militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had already blown up the temples of Baalshamin and of Baal, in keeping with their stated belief that such structures are idolatrous. But the arch was not a religious structure.

Its destruction was first reported on Sunday by Khaled al-Homsi, an antigovernment activist who has long monitored the destruction of antiquities in Palmyra by all parties in the multisided war. Mr. Homsi fled Palmyra after the Islamic State takeover, in which his uncle Khaled al-Asaad, a former antiquities official, was executed by the group.

Residents of Palmyra have also suffered under intensified bombardment by government warplanes over the past month, some of which did their own damage to the archaeological site, Mr. Homsi and others said.

The Palmyra branch of the Local Coordinating Committees — antigovernment activist cells set up early in the uprising that now primarily serve to document events around Syria — recently issued an infographic showing the toll from all sides for September alone.

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SOURCE: ANNE BARNARD 
The New York Times