The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights recently reported that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) has placed mines within the ruins of Palmyra, Syria. “They have planted it yesterday,” explained Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the British group. “They also planted some around the Roman theatre; we still do not know the real reason.”
Others in Syria confirmed ISIS might destroy the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The city is a hostage in their hands, [and] the situation is dangerous,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s head of antiquities.
ISIS captured the city in May, and the international community expressed concern that the terrorists would destroy the protected relics, since they are known to demolish anything they believe promotes “idolatry.” The group released a video to assure the world the ancient ruins were safe but held mass executions at the amphitheater.
A day later, an ISIS commander declared the terrorists would only destroy items that “promote idolatry.” Everything else, he claimed, would remain untouched: “Concerning the historic city, we will preserve it and it will not be harmed, God willing,” said the commander. “What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”
One resident witnessed the militants “crushing the ‘god lion’ statue with construction machines.” The statue dated back to the first century AD. The lion stood guard at the Temple of Bel in Palmyra. The temple was dedicated to the god Bel, who was worshiped with Aglibol and Yarhibol. The lion, though, was dedicated to Al-lāt, a pre-Islamic goddess for “Springtime and Fertility, the Earth-Goddess who brings prosperity.” She is often identified with goddesses Al-Uzzā and Menāt, who are sometimes referred to as the daughters of Allah. Herodotus, a Greek historian, equated her with Aphrodite, while others placed her next to Athena. She is known as “the Mother of the Gods” or the “Greatest of All.”
While many feared the Islamic State would destroy Palmyra’s relics, it was the Syrian regime that led the recent attacks on the city, which destroyed some of the ancient relics.
“This [attack] was done by the Syrian regime,” explained resident Osama Alkhateb. “But we don’t know why as there was nothing to hit apart from the ruins. There is no Isil in the area: they are all at least two kilometres [1.2 miles] away.”
The attacks damaged the northern wall “alongside the Temple of Bel-Shamin.” Another attack on Monday damaged a museum in Maarat al-Numaan. The barrel bomb collapsed one wall of the building. In late May, footage showed damage to the ancient buildings after an attack by the regime.
“The air force struck more than 160 Daesh targets, killing and wounding terrorists and destroying weapons and vehicles equipped with machine guns,” claimed a source within the Syrian Air Force. “We are pursuing Daesh wherever they are. Military operations, including air raids, are ongoing in the area around Al-Suknah, Palmyra, the Arak and Al-Hail gas fields and all the roads leading to Palmyra.”