Isis 'failed' to destroy Palmyra's ancient Temple of Bel and structure still stands, expert says

Syria's antiquities chief stresses his reports are provisional

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The Independent Online

The ancient Temple of Bel in Palmyra may have survived an attempted demolition by the Isis militant group, according to Syrian officials.

Local residents reported an attempt to blow up the temple, one of the finest ancient buildings in the whole of Syria, on Saturday, just a few days after images emerged showing the total destruction of nearby Baalshamin Temple.

But on Sunday, the head of Syria's national antiquities department said that "provisional information" suggests the larger structure still stands.

"It indicates that any damage done was partial, and the basic structure is still standing," Maamoun Abdulkarim told the BBC.

Mr Abdulkarim said the "structure of the temple, its columns and sanctum" appeared to have survived what he confirmed was a large explosion, but said it was "different" to the blast which destroyed Baalshamin.

In a reference to the evidence Isis itself provided on the damage at that site, however, Mr Abdulkarim said officials would have to wait for pictures to confirm reports from witnesses on the ground.

Previous witness reports on the ground had suggested the damage was much more extensive, with a local telling the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that "it is total destruction, the bricks and the columns are on the ground".

 

The Temple of Bel is almost 2,000 years old, dating from 32 AD. It consists of a rare combination of Near Eastern and Greco-Roman architecture, and is considered one of the most important religious buildings from the first century.

Dedicated to the Semitic god Bel, it consists of a central shrine within a colonnaded courtyard with a large gateway.

Read more: After Baalshamin, what is left of Palmyra?

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