ISIS terrorists have destroyed the historic Tetrapylon and ‘significantly damaged’ the Roman Theater at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Palmyra, in Syria.
Satellite images, taken on January 10, show the monuments of huge cultural importance lying in ruins after the jihadist group recaptured Palmyra on December 11, 2016, when Syrian armed forces pulled out.
The ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative (ASOR CHI), which documents the cultural heritage of Syria and northern Iraq, said: ‘ISIL executed prisoners around the archaeological site, destroyed the Tetrapylon and part of the Roman Theater.’
The damage to the ancient structures occurred between December 26, 2016 and January 10, 2017, ASOR CHI said.
‘The Tetrapylon appears to have been intentionally destroyed using explosives. Two columns remain standing, but the majority of the structure has been severely damaged and column drums and debris are visible on the ground around the structure,’ it said.
‘The Roman Theater has sustained damage to the stage backdrop, primarily in the area of the Porticus. New stone debris is scattered across the center of the stage,’ ASOR CHI added.
ISIS terror chiefs sparked a global outcry when they started destroying Palmyra’s treasured monuments, which they consider idolatrous, after first taking the city in May 2015.
The terrorists dynamited the Palmyra temples of Baal Shamin and Bel, as well as funeral towers and a triumphal arch, which had stood for 1,800 years in the oasis city described by the U.N. cultural agency as a crossroads of cultures since the dawn of humanity.
The group used Palmyra’s ancient theatre as a venue for public executions and also murdered the city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.
The now obliterated Tetrapylon was once a grand platform with four columns at each corner topped by a massive corinth, built to make the main route through Palmyra appear more harmonious.
‘This type of Tetrapylon is called a tetrakionion, in which the four corners of the structure are not connected overhead,’ ASOR CHI explained.
Each of the four groups of pillars in the tetrapylon supports 150,000kg of solid cornice.
Before it was destroyed by ISIS only one of the original pink Egyptian granite columns was still standing – the others were modern reproductions.
Meanwhile, the unfinished Roman amphitheatre, which dates back to the 2nd century CE when Palmyra was once one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, contained low level seating reserved for the elite.
It was one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Syria and is ‘ringed by a colonnaded portico which opens onto a colonnaded street leading to Palmyra’s Southern Gate,’ ASOR CHI said.
In March last year, the head of Syria’s antiquities authority promised they would rebuild Palmyra once it was recaptured from the ultra-hardline Islamist group.
Mamoun Abdelkarim told Reuters they would revive the Roman-era monuments ‘as a message against terrorism’.
However, he made his promise before ISIS once again reclaimed the city – at a time when drone footage showed many of the structures still standing.
The group’s acts of cultural destruction in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, which it documented and broadcast with the same thoroughness as its shooting, beheading, drowning and burning of prisoners, were condemned by the U.N. as war crimes.