ISIS destroys ancient Palmyra Arch of Triumph

The arch was widely considered an ‘icon of Palmyra’ and UNESCO has called ISIS’ destruction of heritage sites as ‘acts war crimes’

Published: Updated:

ISIS has blown up the famous Arch of Triumph in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the country’s head of antiquities said on Monday, as the extremists press their campaign to tear down the treasured heritage site.

“We have received news from the site that the Arch of Triumph was destroyed yesterday (Sunday). ISIS bobby-trapped it several weeks ago,” antiquities director Maamun Abdulkarim told AFP.

UNESCO's director-general on Monday condemned the destruction saying “extremists are terrified by history and culture.”

Irina Bokova said the U.N.'s scientific and cultural body would make every effort “to make sure that the perpetrators of the destruction are tried and punished.”

ISIS has carried out a sustained campaign of destruction against heritage sites in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, and in mid-August beheaded the ancient city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.

READ MORE: ISIS beheads elderly antiquities scholar in Palmyra

ISIS extremists have already destroyed the shrine of Baal Shamin and the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, regarded as Palmyra’s masterpiece, since overrunning the citadel in May.

The Arch of Triumph, situated at the entrance of the ancient ruins’ historic colonnaded street, was an “icon of Palmyra,” Abdulkarim said, warning that ISIS fighters have already laid explosives in other monuments.

“This is a systematic destruction of the city. They want to raze it completely,” he said.

“They want to destroy the amphitheatre, the colonnade. We now fear for the entire city,” he added, calling on the international community to “find a way to save Palmyra.”

Mohammad Hassan al-Homsi, an activist from Palmyra, backed up the account, saying: “The Arch of Triumph was pulverised. ISIS has destroyed it.”

READ MORE: Satellite images confirm Palmyra temple destruction

ISIS has destroyed pre-Islamic monuments, tombs and statues it considers idolatrous, but experts say they are also funding their “caliphate” by selling artifacts on the black market.

Both the citadel and the ruins are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and before the war around 150,000 tourists a year visited Palmyra.

Activists said the city has also been damaged by heavy bombardment from barrel bombs dropped by Syrian government forces.