Militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, covered some portions of Greco-Roman amphitheater ruins in Syria’s Palmyra with bombs and other explosives, said Antiquities Chief of Syria Maamoun Abdulkarim. The recent development of ISIL’s activities in war-torn country sparked fears anew, not only for the possibility of ruining a Unesco World Heritage site, but also for the lives of Syrians.
The Telegraph reports that a resident who maintains contact with relatives in the city said that earlier, extremists wearing masks made an announcement of their intent to rattle Palmyra with bombs, although it was not yet ascertained whether the mines were implanted for destruction of the ruins or for determent of the regime’s allied forces. Collections displayed on Palmyra’s museum, however, had already been emptied long before the ISIL rebels arrived.
The militants reportedly sent a message to residents at the main market square, saying ISIL militants will instill pressure on the administration and compel the “international community to stop them from shelling civilians.”
It was said that the 2,000-year old Greco-Roman amphitheater ruins lies “between the hammer and the anvil,” with one end belonging to the administration and the other to the extremist group; its destruction would be deemed as the heaviest blow against Syria’s heritage. To date, Palmyra has been exposed to heavy damage due to the four-year war and pillaging by regime forces. Last week, an airstrike from the government hit its defensive wall in the north.
Abdulkarim expressed concerns over Palmyra, lamenting that the “situation is dangerous” as the city has been held hostage by the militants.
A Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad equipped West of the city with reinforcements for possible attacks. Last month, a portion of Tadmur Town was seized by the militants from the regime. In the last three days, intensive air strikes were launched, resulting in the death of 11 persons.
Casualties in Syrian civil war reached approximately 230,000 since March 2011 when Mr. Assad’s military forces first halted protests against the government. According to the news, since the eruption of the war, around 56 massacres had already been committed and 49 of them were perpetrated by regime forces.