UNESCO is calling ISIS’s reported destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin—an ancient treasure in the historic city of Palmyra—a war crime.
Reports of the site’s destruction come just days after the Islamic State killed Khaled Asaad, an 82-year-old Syrian expert on Palmyra who refused to divulge the location of artifacts coveted by the militant group. Asaad had run Palmyra’s antiquities department for 50 years.
“The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. “One week after the killing of [Asaad] … this destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based activist group, said in a statement Sunday that ISIS fighters detonated explosives that were arranged around the Temple of Baalshamin. Maamoun Abdul Karim, Syria’s antiquities chief, confirmed that account to Reuters. But the two versions differed as to when the temple was destroyed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the destruction occurred last month. Abdul Karim said it occurred Sunday.