As government troops continue to advance on the vicinity of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdel-Karim, vows to rebuild all the famed monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites destroyed by ISIS during its one-year occupation of the city. “The nightmare is nearly over, before it is too late, before the total destruction of the ancient city.” he explained.
Sadly, the former 82-year-old antiquities chief Khaled al-Assaad was beheaded by the Islamic State three months after its fighters captured the city last May; subsequently, the Islamic State descended on a huge campaign as to destroy as many monuments and heritage sites as possible.
The Islamic State began by demolishing the ancient shrine of Baal Shamin. In September, they demolished the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, a gem of Classical architecture. In October of 2015, they also blew up the Arch of Triumph, dating from around A.D. 200.
Nevertheless, Syria’s current antiquities chief hailed the Syrian Arab Army’s advances; however, he noted: “I fear finding even worse destruction than the demolition of the two temples, of the dozen tower tombs and the Arch of Triumph.”
“I think this 10-month period has been the worst of our lives,” Abdel-Karim said. “How many times have tears welled up in our eyes because we felt powerless to save a civilization that was threatened with being erased before our eyes. He also mentioned that the monuments destroyed by ISIS would be restored with expert help.
“We will rebuild the two temples under supervision from UNESCO and other international organizations. We are determined to bring Palmyra back to life,” he said. “Palmyra is not just Syria’s heritage, it is the world’s heritage and must be shared.” He explained that he would travel to the ancient city as soon as it was under the control of government troops as to draw up plans of Palmyra’s reconstruction.
“The liberation of Palmyra will go down in the books of history” Maamoun Abdel-Karim said, while also noting that he had a “feeling of fear and joy” as government troops prepare the final assault on Palmyra’s gates.
Currently, more than 6.000 government soldiers are attacking the remaining ISIS defensives at Palmyra, while the latter has called for all civilians to flee the ancient city.