ISIL destroys part of famed Palmyra temple: Monitor, activists
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. AP PhotoThe Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group has blown up parts of the Temple of Bel in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor and activists said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Aug. 30 that the jihadist group had placed explosives inside the famed temple, at least partially destroying the building considered Palmyra's most significant.
Mohamed Hassan al-Homsi, an activist from Palmyra, also reported the partial destruction on Aug. 30 night, a week after ISIL destroyed the Baal Shamin temple at the historic Greco-Roman site.
"They laid the explosives today, using booby-trapped boxes and barrels that were already prepared by IS [ISIL]," he said.
"This was the most important temple for tourists and for the people of Palmyra. They used to hold festivals there."
Homsi, who goes by a pseudonym, said the inner part of the temple was destroyed in the blast.
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdelkarim, reached by phone in Damascus, said he could not confirm the destruction
"Rumours about these ruins are always coming out so we have to be careful about news like this," he said.
There were also no immediate images released by ISIL of the reported destruction.
The reports come a week after ISIL blew up the smaller Baal Shamin temple in the UNESCO-listed Palmyra ruins.
That destruction was first reported by activists and Abdelkarim, and later confirmed in images released by ISIL online.
This photo combo shows, left, the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria, released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA. AP Photo
ISIL, which controls swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, captured Palmyra on May 21, sparking international concern about the fate of the heritage site described by UNESCO as of "outstanding universal value".
Known as the "Pearl of the desert", Palmyra, which means City of Palms, is a well-preserved oasis 210 kilometres (130 miles) northeast of Damascus.
Before the arrival of Christianity in the second century, Palmyra worshipped the Semitic god Bel, whose temple was considered the city's most significant, along with the sun god Yarhibol and lunar god Aglibol.
Before the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, more than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year.
ISIL mined the ancient site in June before destroying the Lion Statue of Athena outside the Palmyra museum.
Most of the pieces in the museum were evacuated by antiquities staff before ISIL arrived, though the jihadists have blown up several historic Muslim graves.
Earlier this month, ISIL beheaded the retired long-time chief of antiquities in Palmyra, Khaled al-Assaad.
More than 240,000 people have died in Syria's conflict since March 2011.
Combination picture shows the site of the Baal Shamin Temple inPalmyra, Syria, on June 26, 2015 (L) and on August 27, 2015 (R) in handout satellite image by the U.S. Department of State (L) and Airbus Defense and Space (R) made available August 29, 2015. Reuters Photo