Monday 24 August 2015

Reports that Palmyra's Baalshamin temple 'blown up by IS'

Temple of Baalshamin in happier days (BBC)
The BBC is reporting ('Palmyra's Baalshamin temple 'blown up by IS'...' 24th Aug 2015), citing Syrian officials and activists, that ISIL militants have destroyed a Roman temple in Palmyra.
Syria's head of antiquities was quoted as saying the temple was blown up on Sunday. [...] IS "placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baalshamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple," Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP news agency. "The cella (inner area of the temple) was destroyed and the columns around collapsed," he said.
There is some confusion because residents who had fled from Palmyra had reported (according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) that ISIL had planted explosives at the temple about one month ago. There is the possibility that, since ISIL has been using improvised explosives such as fertiliser to blow up other monuments, that other home-made charges may have been involved here. If so, the possibility exists that the explosion (which has yet to be independently confirmed) was an accident.

On the other hand, ISIL seem acutely aware of western sensitivities towards the Riegelian 'age value' and are not unwilling to exploit it. Syrian forces were rumoured two weeks ago to be a few kilometres from the town, could it be this is a warning what will happen if they advance further? The choice of a relatively compact building with the roof on would be an idal one for a demonstrative act like that.

Similar reports are coming from other media, but citing the same sources: Maggie Gray, 'Isis destroys ancient temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra' Apollo 24th August 2015.

UPDATE 25th August  2015

Gone in a puff of smoke
 and now the photos showing the temple being mined, it was clearly no accident. Interestingly, though, while earlier ISIL publicity showed the faces of the heritage-trashers, in these shots the faces are carefully hidden - perhaps the people responsible are getting the idea that they may face responsibility for these war crimes when the conflict is over. Let's hope they do.

So much for ISIL giving its word they would not harm the monuments

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