IS Overruns Third of Syria's Ancient Palmyra

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

Islamic State jihadist fighters took control of the northern sector of the Syrian city of Palmyra on Wednesday, a monitor and activists said, sparking renewed fears over its historic treasures.

"The situation is very bad," Syrian antiquities director Mamoun Abdulkarim said by telephone.

"If only five members of IS go into the ancient buildings, they'll destroy everything," he added, calling for international action to save the city.

Palmyra's UNESCO world heritage site ruins, including ancient temples and colonnaded streets, are in the city's southwest.

Hundreds of statues and ancient artefacts from Palmyra's museum have already been transferred out of the city, Abdulkarim said, but many others -- including massive tombs -- could not be moved.

It was the second time IS has overrun northern Palmyra, after it seized the same neighborhoods on Saturday but held them for less than 24 hours.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said IS fighters had seized roughly "a third of Palmyra" on Wednesday.

After fierce clashes on the northern edges of the city, IS entered the northern quarter "without their vehicles."

They seized a state security building and fanned out across northern districts as regime forces fled, the monitoring group's head said.

"People are very afraid of what will happen, because IS has the capability to get to the heart of Palmyra," said Khaled al-Homsi, an activist in the city.

He said terrified residents were staying at home and that government forces were "on the defensive."

Asked if IS would be able to reach the city's ancient ruins, a Syrian military source said "everything is possible in urban warfare."

He acknowledged the jihadists had infiltrated northern neighborhoods and said they were engaged in "street fighting" with regime forces.

Mohammad Hassan Homsi, another activist originally from Palmyra, told AFP that "regime soldiers fled after IS took the state security building".

"They headed to the military intelligence headquarters near the ruins," he said.

Homsi said jihadists from the flashpoint border town of Kobane, where U.S.-led air strikes helped Kurdish fighters defeat IS in January, were among those fighting in Palmyra.

IS began its offensive on the ancient city on May 13, seizing a nearby town and two gas fields, and leaving more than 350 people dead.

Antiquities officials fear IS wants to destroy Palmyra's pre-Islamic cultural treasures, which include colonnaded streets and ancient citadels.

The city is also strategically located at the crossroads of key highways leading west to Damascus and Homs, and east to Iraq.

Comments 15
Missing humble 20 May 2015, 23:00

All in preparation of the Alawistan.

Missing 20 May 2015, 23:34

ISIS captured almost all of the city.

Missing 20 May 2015, 23:34

ISIS captured almost all of the city.

Missing 20 May 2015, 23:38

gabby14 - The rebels have been in control of Ma'rat al Numan since 2012. To block off Aleppo, the rebel need to take Khanaser or Al-Ithriyah

Thumb Mystic 20 May 2015, 23:39

ISIS are destroying all the old city of Palmyra. Just like they did to the old Babylon places of Iraq.

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 00:37

And you guys act like you are all moderates, and pro Lebanon etc. Seems like ISIS are becoming your last hope of freeing you all from the "evil" hezb right?

Thumb whyaskwhy 21 May 2015, 11:33

Well Mystic back in 2006 Kizb did the same in Lebanon and your point is what exactly? oh yeah and Israel gave up then and left palestine...

Thumb Mystic 21 May 2015, 00:41

I guess you were promised free Yazidi slave girls, for supporting ISIS.
Saudijack and all the rest of you above too.

Thumb whyaskwhy 21 May 2015, 11:35

as if kizb cares for other religions? looool yes Kizb's tolerance towards other non sha7ata wearing people is well known.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 15:56

HA NEVER massacred civilians in areas they entered. I can not say that about many Lebanese millitias!

Thumb liberty 21 May 2015, 06:14

a drama orchestrated and staged by assad and iran to get ISIS closer to KSA.

Thumb whyaskwhy 21 May 2015, 11:36

Your right Truth, but no one in the middle east cares.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 15:41

The NATIVES care, but the their rulers.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 15:45

These ISIL fighters who are mostly non-Syrian are fearless fighters (like HA) and they are well organized and fight to the death. Too bad they ONLY fight the natives and NOT the Israeli colonizers.

Missing bigjohn 21 May 2015, 15:52

I like to see the truly "moderate" opposition unite with the pro-regime forces to defeat Al Nusra, ISIL, Jash Al Sham, and all the extremist Sunni groups. The problem is that more than 90% of the ARMED "opposition" brigades are extremists united with Al Qaida against the Pro-regime forces. So what you really have here is Pro-regime forces fighting the Sunni Extremists groups. The training of several thousand FSA fighters by the West and their Arab partners which is taking many years will not make any significant difference.