First Published: 2017-01-20

UN calls IS destruction of Palmyra relics ‘war crime’
UNESCO condemns attacks by IS on two historical sites in Syria’s ancient city Palmyra as ‘immense loss’ for Syrian people, humanity.
Middle East Online

Satellite images show damage to monuments

PARIS - The UN on Friday led condemnation of attacks by Islamic State jihadists on two sites in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, calling the destruction a "war crime" and "cultural cleansing."

In a statement, Irina Bokova, director general of the Paris-based UN cultural agency UNESCO, described the wrecking as "a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity."

"This new blow against cultural heritage... shows that 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," Bokova said.

IS recaptured Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, from government forces on December 11 and the new devastation reportedly occurred earlier this month.

Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said in Damascus earlier Friday that local sources said IS destroyed Palmyra's tetrapylon monument, while satellite images showed damage to the facade of the city's Roman amphitheatre.

The tetrapylon, built during the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in the third century, consisted of four sets of four pillars each supporting massive stone cornices.

The monument had suffered considerable damage over the centuries and only one of the 16 pillars was still standing in its original Egyptian pink granite. The rest were cement replicas erected in 1963.

The Roman amphitheatre dates to the first century and was used by IS for public executions during its occupation of the city between May 2015 and March 2016.

The jihadist group had already ravaged the city during the nine months it held the site before being forced out of Palmyra in a Russian-backed offensive last March.

Moscow on Friday deplored the new destruction, with President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling it "a real tragedy from the point of view of cultural and historical heritage."

Asked whether the Russian military is likely to step in to recapture Palmyra for a second time, Peskov said only that: "Russian military continues to support the Syrians in battling terrorists."

- 'Barbarians' -

For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, calling those who demolish world treasures "barbarians", added: "Such ideology and practice have absolutely no place in modern civilisation."

Also Friday, UNESCO said years of conflict in Syria had "totally destroyed" 30 percent of the historic Old City of Aleppo -- named a World Heritage Site in 1986 -- and around 60 percent of the quarter was "severely damaged."

The mission reported "extensive damage" to the Citadel, a fortress dating to the first millennium BC, and the Great Mosque of Aleppo, the largest and one of the oldest of the city's mosques.

The loss of east Aleppo was the biggest blow to Syria's rebel movement in the nearly six-year conflict, which has killed more than 310,000 people.

Last year International Criminal Court judges jailed a Malian jihadist for nine years for demolishing Timbuktu's fabled shrines in the first such case to focus on cultural destruction as a war crime

 

More strikes hit E. Ghouta as UN delays truce vote

Russia pours cold water on UN bid to condemn Iran over missiles to Yemen

Saudi Arabia to boost entertainment in next decade

Dutch parliament recognises 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide

Blatter supports Morocco bid for 2026 World Cup

Lebanon says both suspects in Kuwait murder of Filipina maid held

38 dead in Mogadishu car bombings

Morocco police arrests prominent newspaper publisher

Syria regime continues to pound Ghouta as world stutters

UN rights commission wants S.Sudan war crimes charges

Iran grounds airline's ATR planes after crash

Turkey summons Dutch diplomat over Armenian 'genocide' vote

Turkey navy threatens to engage Italian drillship near Cyprus

Iran police shoving headscarf protester sparks social media storm

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Syria ceasefire

Dubai says Djibouti illegally seized African port

Heavily bombarded Eastern Ghouta awaits UN resolution

Russia says Syria rebels rejected offer to evacuate E. Ghouta

UN diplomats press for Syria ceasefire without Russia veto

Iranian minister’s presence at UN rights meeting angers critics

Iran warns it will leave nuke deal if banks cannot do business

Qatar to plant thousands of trees to ‘beautify’ World Cup venues

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about 'no civilian deaths' in Afrin

African migrants protest Israeli detention policy

Egypt sentences 21 to death for planning attacks

Israeli handball teams in Qatar spark furious outcry from locals

UN report highlights S.Sudan journalist treatment

Palestinian dies after being shot by Israeli soldiers

Gulf states urge Syria to end Ghouta violence

Wanted Bahraini militants die at sea en route to Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad calls for immediate free elections

Merkel calls for end to 'massacre' in Syria

Iraq urges FIFA to lift ban on hosting internationals

Carnage of Ghouta's bombs breaking families

Blockaded Gaza Strip forced to pump sewage into sea

African migrants start hunger strike over Israel expulsion

UN chief 'deeply alarmed' by Eastern Ghouta violence

Three militiamen killed in Libya car bomb attack

Russia denies ‘groundless’ accusations of role in Ghouta killings

Turkey says whoever helps YPG is 'legitimate target'

Morocco dismantles IS-linked terrorist cell

Turkey urged to end gas standoff with Cyprus

PKK attack near Iraq kills 2 Turkish soldiers

Netanyahu confidant to testify against him

Iran emergency teams recover bodies from plane crash site