Middle East Eye's Peter Oborne speaks with a platoon leader on the frontline of the battle between the Syrian army and the Islamic State over the ancient city of Palmyra ('The archaeologist who watched as Palmyra was blown up', Sunday 13 September 2015).
For Lieutenant Milad, there is a special pathos in what he has witnessed. He studied archaeology at the University of Aleppo before the conflict began and afterwards failed to win a place at Cambridge University to study building restoration. He told me how he had been involved in archaeological work in Aleppo, which is now completely destroyed. In the irony of ironies, he also took part in a dig around the Bel temple, which he witnessed being annihilated two weeks ago. The bearded lieutenant, in his late 20s, told me that he had been a drummer for a big jazz band during the years of peace and was hopeful of army leave so that he could get married next month. His soldiers told me how they were attacked by IS “almost every day”. They spoke of sudden night-time assaults and day-time ambushes from IS fighters camouflaged to be invisible in the desert sand.