The world is indeed down one treasure after the destruction of a major temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. By comparing a satellite image snapped yesterday with another from Thursday—visible side by side here—a UN agency has confirmed that the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel has been reduced to rubble, along with "a row of columns in its immediate vicinity," per Reuters. Residents of Palmyra, a World Heritage site, had reported a massive explosion destroyed the important religious temple and one of the best-preserved Roman-era sites in Palmyra on Sunday, but experts were unable to approach the city, which was seized by the Islamic State in May.
An Islamic State operative tells the AP that militants set off explosives near the temple, but he wouldn't describe the extent of the damage. Syria's state news agency had reported that large sections of the temple were destroyed and others booby-trapped. "This is the most devastating act yet in my opinion," says an Ohio professor and former Syrian antiquities official. "It truly demonstrates ISIS' ability to act with impunity and the impotence of the international community to stop them." Militants also destroyed the smaller Temple of Baalshamin last week. The Temple of Bel lies within a complex of other ruins, including an amphitheater and tombs that have also been targeted. (Read more Syria stories.)