Syrian activists say ISIS militants have destroyed a nearly 2,000-year-old arch in the ancient city of Palmyra, the latest victim in the group's campaign to destroy historic sites across the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. The Arch of Triumph was one of the most recognizable sites in Palmyra, the central city affectionately known by Syrians as the "Bride of the Desert," which ISIS seized in May. The monumental arch sat atop the famed colonnaded streets of the ancient city, which linked the Roman Empire to Persia and the East. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says ISIS blew up the arch but left the colonnades in place.
Palmyra's sprawling ancient complex, which also includes remains of temples to local gods and goddesses, has been under attack from ISIS, which claims such ancient relics promote idolatry, but is also believed to sell off looted antiquities, bringing in significant sums of cash. "It's as though there is a curse that has befallen this city and I expect only news that will shock us. If the city remains in their hands the city is doomed," Syria's antiquities chief tells Reuters. "It is now wanton destruction," he says. "Their acts of vengeance are no longer ideologically driven because they are now blowing up buildings with no religious meaning." (The ancient city's most important temple was blown up at the end of August, not long after ISIS beheaded one of Syria's leading antiquities scholars.)