IS militants destroy Syrian Palmyra's Arch of Triumph



The Islamic State (IS) militants on Sunday destroyed the centuries-old Triumphal Arch of the Syria' s ancient of Palmyra, the country's museums chief told Xinhua.

The Triumphal Arch, which dates back to the second century AD, has been destroyed by the IS militants, just weeks after the terror group booby-trapped that picturesque arch, Maamoun Abdul-Karim, the head of the Damascus Department of Antiquities and Museums, told Xinhua by phone Sunday night.

"We have had information that the IS had booby-trapped the arch, but we have never thought that their madness will lead them to actually blowing it up giving the fact that the arch held no religious signs or indications," he said.

"We expected the bombings to target the statues, temples or tombs and graves because the IS deems those as a form of polytheism in pre-Islamic eras. But the arch is of a civil nature that has nothing to do with religion and we didn't expect them to destroy it," he said.

The arch holds its significance because it's considered the entrance of the ancient city of Palmyra and one of its most beautiful icons and landmarks.

"We believe, according to crossed testimonies that we have received, that the bombing took place on Sunday," he said, adding that "IS has for weeks used excavators around the arch before booby-trapping it."

Abdul-Karim, meanwhile, expressed pessimism about the destiny of other ancient ruins in Palmyra.

"We expect that the entire city of Palmyra will be destroyed. It's certain, they will destroy the entire city after they previously blew up two major temples, 10 tombs, and destroyed some relics in the city's museum," he noted.

"The destruction of the arch today is an episode in the series of the city's destruction," he added.

Abdul-Karim urged on the international community to move in with "real tools" to save the city, adding that "the war in Palmyra is the war of cultures, not a political one."

Since capturing it last May, the terror-labelled group destroyed the city's notorious military prison and several Islamic tombs. The IS also committed public executions of government soldiers and people accused of working for the government.

Their latest execution was against a Khaled Asaad, a prominent Syrian archeologist, who had lived in Palmyra for most of his life and dedicated his carrier to study the archeological sites of Palmyra.

Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming for searching new clues of historical facts on the development of civilizations.