ISIS Levels 2,000-Year-Old Syrian Temple in Seconds

ISIS continues its "systematic destruction of cultural symbols" in Syria.

ByAlexander Mallin
August 24, 2015, 11:57 AM

— -- The ISIS occupation of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra has taken its newest tragic turn, the same week after militants brutally executed a renowned Syrian scholar deemed a “protector” of the ruins.

The so-called Islamic State has destroyed one of the city's most well-known ruins, the Temple of Baalshamin, believed to be nearly 2,000 years old, according to the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums.

ISIS detonated "a large quantity of explosives" at the site Sunday, also damaging nearby columns, the group said in an online statement.

WATCH UNESCO VIDEO EXPLAINING THE IMPORTANCE OF PALMYRA HERE

Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova called the reports of the temple's demolishing a "new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity."

"The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history," Bokova said in a news release today.

The UNESCO World Heritage site has been under ISIS control since mid-May, drawing outcries from the international and academic communities over fears that the ruins and antiquities would be looted and sold by the group or destroyed for propaganda purposes.

PHOTO: This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria.
This file photo released on Sunday, May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus, Syria.
AP Photo

Since then, ISIS is reported to have destroyed a pair of Palmyran tombs, and has released videos showing its members destroying statues said to be pulled from the ruins.

In videos posted by the group showing montages of destruction of artifacts and historical sites, the group says the preservation of ancient ruins constitutes a form of idolatry, a sin punishable by death, according to the group’s theology.

In a video posted online in early July, a group of children publicly executed more than two dozen Syrian soldiers in a Palmyran amphitheater.

PHOTO: An aerial file photo taken in January 2009 shows part of Palmyra in Syria.
An aerial file photo taken in January 2009 shows part of Palmyra in Syria.
Christophe Charon/Sipa USA/AP Photo

The destruction of Baalshamin comes the same week that militants publicly executed Khaled al-Asaad, an 81-year-old Syrian scholar who was Palmyra's director of antiquities dating back to 1963.

Friends of al-Asaad's told ABC News that his family members suspect he was killed after refusing to divulge the locations of some of Palmyra's hidden treasures. After killing him, the militants reportedly hanged his corpse from columns inside the city's ruins.

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