Islamic State have continued on their path of destruction and devastation and have obliterated an ancient temple, the Baal Shamin in the Semitic city of Palmyra in war-torn Syria.
The ancient ruins have been under threat from IS for many months. In June of this year, IS carried out threats to destroy the ancient temple. The Baal Shamin, a UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) protected historical site was blown up by IS, destroying the temple that dated back to 17 AD.
When the threats were first made, it was suspected that IS had begun laying the foundations for their plans of attack by planting mines around the areas surrounding the historical sites and monuments. In addition to the Palmyra temple, other monuments such as the Roman era amphitheatre were under threat.
IS’s black flag stood raised above the captured sites and the threats were finally carried out in the past few days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, stated that IS militants detonated “a large quantity of explosives arranged around the temple” that caused the temple to become heavily damaged in the blast.
The pre-warned threats enabled the Syrian government to spring into action and to attempt to retrieve as many antiquities as possible from the regions under militant control. However many historical artefacts could not be salvaged and needless to say, the ancient buildings including the Palmyra temple had to be left under IS control.
In addition to carrying out acts of terror, capturing cities and committing crimes against humanity, IS have recently begun to destroy historical artefacts that don’t tie in with Islam and their views of an Islamic State.
Therefore artefacts that date back from before the birth of Islam and pre-date the birth of Prophet Mohammed have been under threat and many have been destroyed. Syria’s antiquities director Maamoun Abulkarim stated that IS “consider these Islamic mausoleums to be against their beliefs, and they ban all visits to these sites”.
Considered to be symbols of paganism, many of the more valuable historical entities have also been sold as a means of financing their operations.
Although the blowing up of the Palmyra temple is thought to be due to the IS wanting to destroy pre-Islamic artefacts, IS may have had other intentions. Rami Abdel Rahman, the director the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that “it’s not known if the purpose was to blow up the ruins or to prevent regime forces from advancing into the town”.