Satellite images confirm Palmyra temple razing
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Satellite images confirm Palmyra temple razing

UN training and research agency photos show ancient Baalshamin site vanished after Islamic State demolition

GENEVA, Switzerland — Satellite images confirm the destruction of the Baalshamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, the United Nations said Friday, after international condemnation of the act claimed by the Islamic State group.

The UN training and research agency UNITAR said its satellite program had compared images of the site taken on June 26 and again on August 27.

“We confirm the destruction of the main building, while surrounding columns seem to be less affected,” UNITAR said in a statement.

The grainy images show that the famed temple, considered the second-most significant in ancient Palmyra, “has been blown to bits,” spokesman Einar Bjorgo told AFP.

“It has been flattened,” he said.

The destruction, which reportedly happened last Sunday, just days after IS fighters beheaded the 82-year-old retired chief archaeologist of Palmyra, sparked widespread outrage.

The UN has slammed the destruction of the temple as a “war crime”, and the act has raised concerns for the rest of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

According to the BBC, the Airbus Defence and Space controlled Pléiades Earth-observation system also produced images confirming the destruction.

Screen capture of a satellite image from the  UN training and research agency UNITAR  taken on June 26, 2015 and showing the site of the Baalshamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, which was demolished by the Islamic State in August, 2015. (Video AFP)
Screen capture of a satellite image from the UN training and research agency UNITAR taken on June 26, 2015 and showing the site of the Baalshamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, which was demolished by the Islamic State in August, 2015. (Video AFP)
Screen capture of a satellite image from the  UN training and research agency UNITAR  taken on August 27, 2015 and showing the remains of site of the Baalshamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, which was demolished by the Islamic State in August, 2015. (Video AFP)
Screen capture of a satellite image from the UN training and research agency UNITAR taken on August 27, 2015 and showing the remains of site of the Baalshamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, which was demolished by the Islamic State in August, 2015. (Video AFP)

Famed for its well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, Palmyra was seized from government forces in May, prompting concerns IS might destroy it as it has other heritage sites in parts of Syria and Iraq under its control.

IS published images earlier this week showing militants placing barrels and small containers, presumably containing explosives, into the temple, as well as similar containers placed on parts of its columns.

The images, which appeared to be screenshots from a video, also showed a large explosion apparently as the temple was blown up, and then a pile of rubble at its former location.

This undated file photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)
This undated file photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015 on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria’s ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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