Nick Brundle/Getty Images

The pre-Islamic oasis city was a meeting place between East and West.

January 20, 2017

Militants from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, destroyed parts of two ancient monuments at the cultural heritage site of Palmyra, Syria, local antiquities authorities confirmed.

ISIS reportedly used explosives to damage a Roman amphitheater and a Tetrapylon gate some time between late December and January 10. Satellite imagery from U.S.-based group American Schools for Oriental Research (ASOR) confirmed the destruction of the nearly 2,000-year-old structures.

 Courtesy of Facebook and ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives

“When they do these executions and deliberate destructions of heritage, they’re trying to create propaganda,” Michael Danti, the director of the cultural heritage initiatives program at ASOR, told Travel + Leisure.

“It also is a direct assault on what we call the intangible dimension of heritage—what it means to us,” he said.

ISIS targeted Palmyra in May 2015 when they first gained control of the site and destroyed several of its most important cultural monuments, including the Arc of Triumph, the Temple of Bel, and the Temple of Baalshamin, as well as dozens of ancient statues and artifacts.

 Izzet Keribar/Getty Images

Militants from the group have frequently used the amphitheater as a stage for mass executions in their propaganda films, employing Palmyra’s heritage as a symbol of the multiculturalism that they aim to erase from Syria. The temples they destroyed were built before the religion of Islam existed, and their leaders have condemned these sites as forms of idolatry.

Long before ISIS targeted ancient sites, however, they have attacked local Christian, and predominantly Muslim, shrines that do not conform to their interpretation of Islam. In ISIS’ extremist interpretation of Islam, Shi’ite and Sufi Muslims are seen as apostates, or traitors to the religion.

Militants from the Islamic State group have slaughtered nearby civilians in Tadmor and eastern Homs, while targeting their local places of worship.

“They carry out these acts of cultural cleansing that target more modern religious heritage, and then eventually they turn toward ancient sites,” Danti said.

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