Thursday, 19 January 2017

More ISIL Atrocities in Palmyra

Palmyra was favoured by ISIL as the scene of showcase brutality, with executions and blowing up ancient structures during its ten-month occupatuion of the strategic city after first gaining control of the city in May 2015. The Islamists were driven out of the city by Syrian government forces and militias backed by Russian air strikes in March 2016, but returned last month after troops were pulled out for Bashar al-Assad’s offensive on Aleppo Now the atrocities are beginning again (Lizzie Dearden, 'Isis carries out mass executions in Palmyra's ancient ruins after retaking Syrian city' The Independent 19th jan 2017):
Isis has carried out a new wave of executions in the ancient ruins of Palmyra after re-taking the symbolic Syrian city. Monitors said teachers were among 12 people murdered in front of crowds of men and children, either having their throats slit or being shot by jihadis. The Palmyra Monitor group said captives were killed in three separate locations – Free Syrian Army and regime soldiers in two groups at the Roman theatre and in an abandoned Russian military base, and civilians outside Palmyra Museum. “There are now fears that Isis may carry out more executions against civilians who were arrested after it took control of the city,” the group said.
Russian intelligence suggests that ISIL is planning further destruction of the site's ancient remains:
Lt-Gen Sergei Rudskoi, a senior Russian defence ministry official, said intelligence indicated that Isis may be planning a new wave of destruction in Palmyra. “We have received information, confirmed by several sources, that a large amount of explosives has been brought into the Palmyra area and that the terrorists plan on destroying the city's world-class historical legacy,” he said.
Indeed, it seems this has already begun. The Facebook page of the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives notes that ISIL have destroyed the Tetrapylon and part of the Roman Theatre.
ASOR CHI has obtained DigitalGlobe satellite imagery that reveals new damage to the ISIL-occupied UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra. The imagery shows significant damage to the Tetrapylon and the Roman Theater, likely the result of intentional destructions by ISIL, although we are currently unable to verify the exact cause. This damage occurred between December 26, 2016 and January 10, 2017. The Tetrapylon appears to have been intentionally destroyed using explosives. Two columns remain standing, but the majority of the structure has been severely damaged and column drums and debris are visible on the ground around the structure. The Roman Theater has sustained damage to the stage backdrop (scaenae frons), primarily in the area of the Porticus. New stone debris is scattered across the center of the stage. [...]  ASOR CHI will continue to monitor the rapidly changing situation in Palmyra and remains concerned about the plight of civilians in Tadmor.

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