Damage to the World Heritage site of Palmyra by ISIS militants may be less than earlier believed, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Friday (March 3).
Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters that video from Palmyra after it was recaptured by the Syrian army has shown less damage than archaeologists feared when pictures emerged at the beginning of the year suggesting Islamic State had smashed more monuments.
Under heavy Russian air cover, the Syrian army and allied militias drove the jihadist group out of the UNESCO world heritage site on Thursday (March 2), two months after they had seized it in a surprise advance.
Fears of a new assault on Palmyra’s archaeological treasures were raised after pictures in January 2017 showed the group had destroyed parts of the Tetrapylon, one of the city’s most iconic monuments, and the facade of the second-century Roman Theatre.
They had already destroyed other landmarks, including a 1,800-year-old monumental arch, during their first occupation of the city which ended a year ago in March 2016.
Syrian state television showed the city on Friday, now being guarded by pro-government forces and army troops.
In December 2017, ISIS swept into Palmyra as the army and its allies focused on defeating rebels in Aleppo. Eastern Aleppo fell to the government in its most important gain of the war.