Less damage to ancient Palmyra than feared, Syrian antiquities chief says

Damage to the World Heritage site of Palymra by Islamic State militants may be less than earlier believed, Syria’s antiquities chief said on Friday.

Maamoun Abdulkarim told Reuters that video from Palmyra after it was recaptured by the Syrian army has shown less damage than archaeologists feared when pictures emerged at the beginning of the year suggesting Islamic State had smashed more monuments.

Under heavy Russian air cover, the Syrian army and allied militias drove the jihadist group out of the UNESCO world heritage site on Thursday, two months after they had seized it in a surprise advance.

Really, our hearts had been overwhelmed with fear of a complete explosion of the theater”

Fears of a new assault on Palmyra’s heritage were raised after pictures in January showed the group had destroyed parts of the Tetrapylon, one of the city’s most iconic monuments, and the facade of the second-century Roman Theatre.

But Abdulkarim said preliminary photographs and video from the city showed almost no further damage than what was already known.

“Really, our hearts had been overwhelmed with fear of a complete explosion of the theater,” Abdulkarim said.

“We thought the situation would be much worse, that there would be eradication, that they [Islamic State] would complete their crimes from the first occupation,” he added.

At least there is some sense of tranquility after we received the initial photos. The general situation is reassuring.”

Abdulkarim said he would visit the area soon for a better assessment, but added: “At least there is some sense of tranquility after we received the initial photos. The general situation is reassuring.”

Some of the damage could be repaired, he said. “Except for the previous destruction, the state of the theatre looks good,” Abdulkarim said. “Even that destroyed section could be repaired. It had already been restored, and it will be again.”

Read more: Reuters.

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