Five days after capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi, ISIS forces have now taken the historic desert city of Palmyra in central Syria. Given Islamic State’s penchant for destroying historical artifacts and ancient monuments, there’s now concern that these ruins, a UN World Heritage site, could be destroyed.

Top image: Zeledi/CC.

Credit: Aotearoa/CC.

Here’s what Director-General Irina Bokova said via a UNESCO statement:

I reiterate my appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities at the site. I further call on the international community to do everything in its power to protect the affected civilian population and safeguard the unique cultural heritage of Palmyra. Finally, it is imperative that all parties respect international obligations to protect cultural heritage during conflict, by avoiding direct targeting, as well as use for military purposes.

In addition to holding strategic significance, Palmyra is home to some of the world’s most precious and important archaeological sites. Called the “Pearl of the Desert,” the town dates back to the First and Second century AD. It contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was once an important cultural center. From the First to Third century, it was a wealthy caravan oasis that intermittently fell under the rule of Rome.

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Its stunning architecture is a unique blend of Graeco-Roman techniques, Persian influences, and local tradition. Palmyra’s grand colonnade is considered a major artistic achievement.

Thankfully, hundreds of statues were removed and transferred to safe locations within Syria prior to the incursion.

More about Palmyra here.

Image: UNESCO/F. Bandarin.