Islamic State ‘blows up Palmyra funerary towers’ #Beekhaybee

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Jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) have
blown up three funerary towers at the ancient city
of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities chief has said.
Maamoun Abdul Karim said they included the
Tower of Elahbel, built in AD103 and one of the
best-preserved.
The multi-storey sandstone monuments, standing
outside the city walls in an area known as the
Valley of the Tombs, belonged to rich Palmyrene
families.
Their demolition comes only days after IS blew up
Palmyra’s two main temples.
The group, which captured the Unesco World
Heritage site from government forces in May, has
previously destroyed two Islamic shrines near
Palmyra, which they described as “manifestations
of polytheism”.
Satellite images
The Valley of the Tombs, in the hills to the south
and west of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city,
contains a series of funerary towers of various
sizes.
The towers were divided into compartments, or
loculi, into which sarcophagi were placed before
being sealed with slabs of stone carved with an
image of the deceased and painted in lively
colours.
Ancient city of Palmyra
Unesco World Heritage site
Site contains monumental ruins of great city,
once one of the most important cultural
centres of the ancient world
Art and architecture, from the 1st and 2nd
Centuries, combine Greco-Roman techniques
with local traditions and Persian influences
More than 1,000 columns, a Roman aqueduct
and a formidable necropolis of more than 500
tombs made up the archaeological site
More than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra
every year before the Syrian conflict
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The Tower of Elahbel was among the most
prominent. It was four storeys high and could
purportedly accommodate up to 300 sarcophagi.
Mr Abdul Karim told the AFP news agency that he
had received reports 10 days ago that the “best
preserved and most beautiful” towers had been
blown up, but only just confirmed the news.
“We obtained satellite images from the US-based
Syrian Heritage Initiative , taken on 2 September,”
he added.
On Tuesday, satellite images confirmed reports
that IS had destroyed the Temple of Bel, which the
UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organisation (Unesco) said was one of the most
important religious edifices of the 1st Century in
the East.
Last month, the jihadist group blew up the smaller
Temple of Baalshamin and beheaded the
archaeologist who looked after the site for four
decades, Khaled al-Asaad, after he reportedly
refused to reveal where treasures had been hidden.
Unesco’s director-general Irina Bokova has said
the systematic destruction of Palmyra constitutes a
“war crime” and called on the international
community to stand united against IS efforts to
“deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its
identity and history”.
IS has ransacked and demolished several similar
ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq.
The sale of looted antiquities is nevertheless one of
the group’s main sources of funding. It has also
been accused of destroying ancient sites to gain
publicity.
The Syrian authorities removed hundreds of
statues and priceless objects before IS overran
Palmyra, among them the carved images found in
the funerary towers.

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