The Russian Ministry of Defence released new drone footage that reveals the damage caused by the Islamic State to UNESCO world heritage sites in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
The video shot on Feb. 5 shows the destruction of the Tetrapylon built in 270 AD. The arrangement of 16 columns that marked the city’s main crossroad is considered one of the Palmyra’s most famous monuments.
The drone footage also shows the partial destruction of the ancient Roman Theatre in Palmyra, built in the centre of a colonnaded piazza. Several towering stone structures on the stage have been damaged.
“This destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. “Cultural cleansing led by violent extremists is seeking to destroy both human lives and historical monuments in order to deprive the Syrian people of its past and its future.”
Control over Palmyra has gone back in forth between ISIS and the Syrian army in the country’s six-year-old civil war. It was initially captured by Islamic State fighters in 2015. Then in the spring of 2016, Syrian forces, backed by the Russians, took the city back. But once the allies focused their military efforts on Aleppo, ISIS retook control of Palmyra in December.
Palmyra’s museum was also heavily damaged by the Russian-backed airstrikes that helped drive ISIS out of the city.
Palmyra is in the Syrian desert, northeast of Damascus, and was once linked to Persia, India, China and the Roman empire. It was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980 because of its role as an “important cultural centre of the ancient world.”
It was a major tourist attraction before Syria’s civil war began in 2011.
— With files from the Associated Press.
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