The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) said: “Satellite analysis confirms Temple of Bel…main building destroyed,” it said, posting an aerial picture of the aftermath.
Observers reported a blast on the UNESCO World Heritage site on Sunday, but with access to the area being controlled by IS, the extent of the damage was unclear.
The satellite images show almost the entirety of the main building reduced to rubble, with only the outer walls and a few columns remaining.
It is the second time this month that the so-called ISIS have destroyed parts of the ancient city. The group also destroyed the smaller Baalshamin temple – an act that cultural agency Unesco has called a war crime aimed at wiping out a symbol of Syria’s diverse cultural heritage.
Following the destruction of Baal Shamin, the head of Arabic Culture Centre Rabab Ahamed said: “It’s sabotage to human society as a whole. The entire world knows the nature of terrorism. They destroyed human history, the root of humankind. They destroyed human nature and culture that belongs to human beings. All people should stand up to fight terrorism.”
Last week, hundreds of people gathered at Syria’s National Museum in Damascus to mourn Palmyra’s chief archaeologist and antiquities scholar Khalid Asaad, who was who killed by the so-called Islamic state.
Mr Asaad was reportedly tortured for information by the militants. Many of the site’s treasures and most precious artefacts were moved to the relative safety of the city of Damascus before Palmyra fell to Islamic State militants.
When Mr Abdulkarim warned his to leave the site when ISIS militants advanced, he said “I was born here, I will die here.” Tens of thousands fled Palmyra when the militants advanced in May.
In an ISIS video released earlier this year a jihadi fighter claimed; “Whenever we take control of a piece of land, we remove the symbols of polytheism and spread monotheism in it.”
Christopher Jones, a PhD student at Columbia University who has been documenting damage to ancient sites in Iraq and Syria, told National Geographic that the Islamic State is “trying to establish their legitimacy as the proper heirs to the legacy of earlier ‘destroyers of idols,’ including the prophets Abraham and Muhammed.”
The targets are by no-means restricted to pre-Islamic sites, but also Islamic heritage that does not follow their strict interpretation of Islam, as well as sites belonging to Yazidis, Kurds, and Christians.
Sources: channel4 & CNN