The United Nations (UN)’s cultural agency has expressed grave concerns over the threats posed by ISIL (also known as Daesh) to the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria’s western province of Homs.
“The site has already suffered four years of conflict, it suffered from looting and represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people and for the world,” Irina Bokova, the director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said on Thursday.
The comments come as Syrian forces have reportedly been engaged in fierce clashes with ISIL militants in a bid to prevent them from destroying Palmyra.
The ISIL extremists have threatened the UNESCO world heritage site with destruction.
Bokova, the UNESCO chief, said, “I appeal to all parties to protect Palmyra and make every effort to prevent its destruction.”
The ISIL terrorist group is “now one kilometer (less than a mile) from the archeological site of Palmyra,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
The governor of Homs Province, Talal al-Barazi, however, said that the situation in the area was “under control,” adding, “The army has sent reinforcements and it is bombing the (ISIL) positions from the air.”
On Thursday, Mamoun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), warned that “an international catastrophe” will take place should ISIL extremists manage to enter the historical city.
ISIL has “not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter,” the Syrian official added.
In 1980, the UNESCO designated Palmyra as a world heritage site of “outstanding universal value.”
On Wednesday, UNESCO condemned the destruction of antiquities in the Middle East by ISIL, saying the move amounts to a “war crime.”
ISIL have razed to the ground a number of mosques in Syria and Iraq, many of them dating back to the early years of the Islamic civilization. The terrorists have also destroyed tombs belonging to revered Shia and Sunni figures.
In April, the ISIL terrorist group released a video showing its members destroying artifacts at Iraq’s northern ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud before blowing up the site.
Also in February, the terrorists smashed ancient statues at the Ninawa museum in Mosul, using sledgehammers and drills.
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