ISIS destroys part of Roman theater in Palmyra – Syrian antiquities chief

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists have destroyed part of a Roman theater and the legendary four-column structure ‘Tetrapylon’ in the ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian antiquities chief said.

The facade of the Roman theater has been completely destroyed, according to Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Syrian director-general for antiquities and museums, as cited by Reuters.

If Islamic State is not ousted from Palmyra in the near future, “it means more destruction,” Abdulkarim added.

The scale of damage is currently unknown.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova describes the act as “a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.”

“As far as we know, Syrian forces keep on trying to liberate this city and all other from terrorists,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to TASS.

Peskov declined to comment on whether Russia is planning to help the Syrian Army liberate Palmyra, forwarding the question to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Peskov added that “Russian soldiers are assisting Syrians in their fight against terrorists.”

IS took control of Palmyra from Syrian troops in December for the second time, after the city was liberated by Syria’s government forces, backed by Russian air power, in March.

Syrian President Bashar Assad stated that IS managed to retake Palmyra, “backed by Americans, under surveillance of the US drones; they came from the side of the desert and retook Palmyra.”

“ISIS was created under the supervision of the United States... and later Turkey sponsored this State. So we cannot expect to have genuine fight against ISIS by Turkey or the United States, and the recent, more stark example is the attack on Palmyra a few weeks ago,” the Syrian leader told Japanese broadcaster TBS, in an interview also published on the SANA agency website.

“Today, we are talking, and ISIS has been attacking Deir Ezzor in the eastern part of Syria, and the Americans did nothing to stop ISIS."

"This is where the so-called international alliance against terrorism has been working for more than one year and a half now, and they achieved nothing, because they are not serious," Assad added.

The ancient city of Palmyra was one of the most important centers of the Roman Empire. Its monuments are included as a UNESCO World Heritage site. After the site was recaptured by government forces last year, reconstruction began to repair extensive damage done by IS.

In particular, experts were working on is a remarkable Lion of Allat statue from the 1st century AD, as well as the Arch of Triumph, the Temple of Baalshamin and the iconic 2,000-year-old Bel Temple.