U.N. calls destruction of 2,000-year-old temple a war crime

The Islamic State has released images that apparently show militants blowing up the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in Palmyra, according to the Associated Press. Supporters of the militant group posted the images on social media Tuesday. The images have not been independently verified, however, they were similar to other propaganda and carried a logo Daesh (the Islamic State) often uses in Palmyra.

On Monday, the chief of the United Nation’s cultural agency described the Islamic State’s destruction of Baal Shamin, as a “war crime.”

Irina Bokova, the UNESCO chief, said in a statement: “This destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity. Daesh is killing people and destroying sites, but cannot silence history and will ultimately fail to erase this great culture from the memory of the world.”

Syria’s head of antiquities was quoted as saying the temple was blown-up Sunday. However, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that it happened a month ago.

The destruction of Baal Shamin is just the latest string of horrors since the Islamic State captured Palmyra in May, sparking international concern about the fate of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Just last week, the Islamic State killed a Palmyra antiquities scholar, Khaled al-Asaad, who was 82. He headed the Palmyra Antiquities Department and Museums from 1963 until his retirement in 2003. Last month, the group demolished a half-dozen statues said to have been stolen from Palmyra, and in June, blew up two Palmyra tombs.

The Islamic State has reportedly destroyed several ancient sites. The militants believe any shrines or statues implying the existence of another deity are sacrilege and idolatry, and should be destroyed.