IS blows up three ancient funeral towers in Syria

Islamic State has blown up three funeral towers in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities chief said. UNESCO has condemned this destruction of a World Heritage Site as a war crime.

The militants, who previously attacked two Roman-era temples in the city, blew up the tombs, which date from between 44 and 103 AD, Maamoun Abdulkarim said.

Sources in Palmyra confirmed the destruction of the tombs, including that of Elahbel, built in 103 AD. The four-storey building was one of the best-preserved of Palmyra’s funeral towers, sandstone constructions built to hold the remains of the city’s richest families.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the towers were blown up within the past two weeks, including part of the Temple of Bel, one of Palmyra’s most significant features, and the Baal Shamin temple, as well as a row of columns. This has been confirmed by UN analysis of satellite images.

Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in land it holds across Syria and Iraq, seized Palmyra from Syrian government control in May. The militants beheaded the 82-year-old guardian of Palmyra’s ancient ruins last month.

The group has used the city’s ancient amphitheatre for public killings and destroyed monuments it considers sacrilegious.

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