The Islamic State has reportedly destroyed another significant landmark in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria.
The temple of Baal Shamin stood for nearly two millennia, honoring the Phoenician god of storms and rain, as the BBC reported. Destruction of the site would be directly in line with the Islamic State’s campaign not just against people of other faiths, but against their culture. “Oh Muslims, these artifacts that are behind me were idols and gods worshipped by people who lived centuries ago instead of Allah,” one militant said of antiquities in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this year.
After the Islamic State captured Palmyra in May, Baal Shamin seems to have fallen to the group’s philosophy.
“Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s antiquities chief, told Agence France-Presse, using another name for the Islamic State. “The [temple’s inner area] was destroyed and the columns around collapsed.”
There was some confusion about when the temple was destroyed. AFP said it was destroyed Sunday; Rami Abdulrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a telephone interview with The Washington Post, said the temple was destroyed a month ago. He noted that information came from a person in Palmyra who joined the Islamic State to avoid being killed but recently was able to flee the city. He said the person witnessed the temple’s destruction.
“Every two or three days we hear about something,” Abdulrahman said.
Indeed, there has been a steady stream of bad news out of Palmyra since the Islamic State descended on the city about 130 miles northeast of Damascus, Syria’s capital, and executed hundreds. In June, it became clear the Islamic State had destroyed the city’s treasured Lion Statue of Athena; in July came word that priceless statues had been destroyed; and just last week there were reports of the execution of Khaled Asaad, who had devoted more than half a century to studying the city’s ancient ruins.
“Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to the place and to history would be beheaded … and his corpse still hanging from one of the ancient columns in the center of a square in Palmyra,” antiquities chief Abdulkarim told Reuters. “The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on [Palmyra] and every column and every archaeological piece in it.”
“Our darkest predictions are unfortunately taking place,” Abdulkarim told AFP.