A satellite image shows the main building of the ancient Temple of Bel in the Syrian city of Palmyra has been destroyed, a United Nations agency said.
The image was taken a day after a massive explosion was set off near the 2,000-year-old temple in the city occupied by so-called 'Islamic State' ('IS') militants.
Earlier, Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the antiquities and museums department in Damascus, had said there was conflicting information about the temple, one of the most prominent structures in a sprawling Roman-era complex, because eyewitnesses were unable to approach the site.
But Einar Bjorgo, manager of Geneva-based UN satellite analysts UNOSAT, said a satellite image “unfortunately shows the destruction of the temple’s main building as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity”.
Another pic I took of the amazing Temple of Bel in Palmyra. Built in 1st century AD. Blown up by ISIS in 2015 pic.twitter.com/8QvquT8ZqM— Gavin Sheridan (@gavinsblog) August 31, 2015
UNOSAT based its findings after comparing the image with one taken on August 27 which showed the main building and columns still intact
Mr Bjorgo said the images were important so the UN cultural agency UNESCO could have “objective information” about the situation in Palmyra, which UNESCO has designated a world heritage site.
The interior of the Temple of Bel, taken by me in late 2009. Now blown apart by ISIS. pic.twitter.com/N5R4s8fOfR— Gavin Sheridan (@gavinsblog) August 31, 2015
'IS', which captured Palmyra from forces loyal to President Bashar Assad in May, destroyed the smaller Temple of Baalshamin in the complex last week and posted images of the destruction days later. UNESCO condemned the act as a war crime.