Pearl of the desert is still shining after Isis assault

The TimesBel Trew, Cairo
Eighty per cent of the ancient city of Palmyra is still standing, the world’s top archaeologists have declared, easing fears that Isis had destroyed the Unesco world heritage site during the ten months of its occupation.

Early assessments of the 2,000-year-old desert city were still under way yesterday as experts confirmed that two temples and a 1st century arch had been razed to the ground.

Archaeologists fear that other parts of the site have also been excavated by jihadists hunting for gold.

“We need at least three weeks to give a proper assessment as the army is still removing land mines,” said Maamoun Abdulkarim, the director of Syria’s antiquities agency, who added that several sites had been booby-trapped.

Palmyra has been repeatedly attacked since the Syrian war started five years ago. Regime soldiers looted the city long before Isis seized it and the jihadists bombed parts because they believed that the monuments were idolatrous.

Mr Abdulkarim said: “In terms of architecture 80 per cent of Palmyra still remains. We thought it had been destroyed completely but we know it is saved. This is not just good for Syria, or the government or the opposition, but for humanity, for the cultural world.”

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