ISIS Takes Ancient City, Putting Ruins at Risk

Palmyra falls in Syria to the Islamic State
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2015 4:31 PM CDT
ISIS Takes Ancient City, Putting Ruins at Risk
This file photo released on May 17, 2015, by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra.   (SANA via AP, File)

It's the second major victory for the Islamic State within a week, this time in Syria instead of Iraq. ISIS fighters have taken control of the ancient desert city of Palmyra, reports Reuters. The city is important not only as a military target—for one thing, ISIS now controls roads leading to major cities in Syria and Iraq—but because it's home to 2,000-year-old tombs, colonnades, and antiquities at risk of being destroyed. The LA Times describes Palmyra as "one of the world’s most spectacular architectural treasures," while the New York Times calls it "one of the world’s most magnificent remnants of antiquity."

An antiquities official in Syria tells Reuters that hundreds of statues were stashed away in safe locations as ISIS advanced on the city, but larger monuments and ruins might be doomed. "This is the entire world's battle," he says, calling for airstrikes by the US-led coalition. That would be tricky, however, notes the Times, because any such airstrikes would benefit Bashar al-Assad—just as going after ISIS in the Iraqi city of Ramadi would require teaming up with militias backed by Iran. (Read more ISIS stories.)

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