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Deal with IS to save Christian Palmyra sites

Tue 29 Mar 2016
By Hannah Tooley

It is being reported that almost 80% of the ancient temples at Palmyra in Syria are still intact. 

Islamic State (IS) had previously taken control of the region that features a number of sites important to Christianity.

The Syrian antiquities minister has said the site remains mostly intact.

He was speaking amid claims that the regime has been working secretly to prevent IS totally destroying the site.

Mammoun Abdulkarim said the regime had worked with "45 to 50 people", according to The Daily Telegraph, inside the city to stop IS from razing parts of the city to the ground.

He said: "[IS] saw that there would be a popular uprising if it destroyed everything."

Mr Abdulkarim said that he thought it would take around five years to restore the site if the government in Syria gets back from UNESCO. However others say this is "wildly optimistic."

Amr al-Azm, former antiques official who is now an opposition member, said that there has been some deliberate "catastrophic" destruction, however there is less damage than feared.

He told the paper: "A lot of us were afraid that, in the battle to recapture the city, even more archaeological damage might occur or that Isil [another name for IS] would blow it up as they retreated.

"We're relieved this doesn't appear to have happened."

Forces in Syria have been struggling to clear landmines and booby-traps left in the historic city and efforts to assess the damage at the 4,000 year old site have been slow.

According to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government said this is a victory for Syria.

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