Isis has released the first video from inside the ancient city of Palmyra since it fell under militant control, in what has been described as a “taunt” at the international community.

The footage, uploaded to YouTube by the official media arm of the so-called “Islamic State”, appears to show the 2,000-year-old ruins of the Unesco World Heritage Site largely undamaged.

There is background noise but no voiceover or stylised introduction characteristic of many Isis media releases. The video shows a number of different angles on the ruins, as well as a brief glimpse of life under Isis in the nearby modern Syrian city of Tadmur.

The fate of the ruins, considered to be among the finest and best-preserved antiquities in the whole of the Middle East, has received international attention after Isis took the area from President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces last week.

Speaking to confirm what appears to be shown in the video, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Tuesday afternoon that “the historic city is fine”, but warned that Isis could start blowing up the ruins at any time.

 

Citing local contacts on the ground, the Damascus-based expert said: “There is no damage so far.”

Charlie Winter, a researcher with the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, said the release of the video showed Isis was “responsive to international media coverage of its advances”, and added: “If it looks like Isis propagandists are taunting the international community with this Palmyra video, it’s because they are.”

Isis has reportedly massacred around 400 people since capturing the city in full on the night of Wednesday, 20 May.

The city, situated on a crossroads to the cities of Damascus and Homs, was a key military gain for extremists and came in the same week as the seizure of Ramadi in neighbouring Iraq.

Most experts say it is likely the Unesco site, described as one of the “most important cultural centres of the ancient world”, will become the latest target in Isis’ bid to destroy all non-Muslim artefacts, historic or otherwise, which the group regards as idolatrous.

Comments