Ruins of Palmyra in peril as ISIS takes control, UNESCO concerned
Beirut: As the Islamic State claimed full control of ancient world heritage site of Palmyra in Central Syria, the Director General of UNESCO has expressed grave concerns about the possible destruction of the historic ruins by the extremists and called for the international community's help to protect the famed site.
Issuing out an appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities at the site, Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO said, “I am deeply concerned by the situation at the site of Palmyra. The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East, and its civilian population”.
Destruction of Palmyra by ISIS would be 'enormous loss to humanity', she was quoted as saying by the AFP.
"At the end of the day, it`s the birthplace of human civilisation. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening," she added.
The UNESCO-recognized Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.
The UNESCO describes it as an oasis in the Syrian desert, north-east of Damascus.
“The splendour of the ruins of Palmyra, rising out of the Syrian desert north-east of Damascus is testament to the unique aesthetic achievement of a wealthy caravan oasis intermittently under the rule of Rome from the Ist to the 3rd century AD,” according to the UNESCO website.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that more than 100 pro-government troops were killed in overnight clashes around Palmyra.
It is the first time it had taken a city directly from the Syrian military and allied forces.
Besides taking over the ancient archeological wonder of Palmyra, the ISIS is now also in control of more than half of Syrian territory, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The ISIS has also taken control over the vast majority of the gas and oilfields in Syria, the monitor adds.
The ISIS capture of the town of Palmyra late Wednesday was a stunning triumph for the militant group, only days after it captured the strategic city of Ramadi in Iraq's largest Sunni province.
As ISIS took Palmyra, government forces collapsed in the face of the attacks and Syrian soldiers were seen fleeing the area, activists said. In Damascus, state TV acknowledged that pro-government forces had withdrawn from the town.