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Palmyra, an ancient Syrian city, captured by ISIS militants

May 22, 2015 12:12 IST

Palmyra: An ancient Semitic World Heritage SitePalmyra: An ancient Semitic World Heritage Site located in Homs Governorate, Syria
Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on 21 May 2015 seized full control of ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. It is an oasis in the Syrian Desert.

Palmyra, also known as the Pearl of Desert and Tadmur, is located 215 km to the northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus and is a World Heritage Site because of its architecture.

The art and architecture of Palmyra dates back to 1st to the 2nd century AD and were built in Graeco-Roman style with local traditions and Persian influences. It was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations.

A grand, colonnaded street of 1100 metres' length forms the monumental axis of the city, which together with secondary colonnaded cross streets links the major public monuments including the Temple of Ba'al, Diocletian's Camp, the Agora, Theatre, other temples and urban quarters.

The site was designated a national monument by Syrian government and was protected by the National Antiquities law 222 as amended in 1999. A buffer zone was established in 2007 but has not yet been submitted to the World Heritage Committee.

Why the capture of Palymra is of concern?
The capture of strategic Palmyra raises security concern as it potentially opens the way for ISIS to advance towards key government-held areas, including the capital Damascus and Homs.

Further, the loss of the al-Tanf crossing in Homs province means the Syrian government does not control any of the country's border posts with Iraq.

On the cultural front, the control of Palmyra raises the concern that this ancient city may also face the fate similar to ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud of Iraq. This is because ISIS has been demolishing those ancient sites which pre-date Islam and trafficking artefacts to get funds.

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