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Site of Palmyra. Photo: Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO.

Devastated by ISIS, the Ancient City of Palmyra to Reopen by 2019

The Syrian government has announced that it plans to restore the 2,000-year-old city of Palmyra, which was nearly razed by the Islamic State during its occupation of the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 and 2016. Located in Homs, a city in western Syria, Palmyra is expected to reopen in the summer of 2019 after a restoration project that is estimated to cost $2 billion.

When Syria pushed the militant group out of Palmyra last year, it discovered that ISIS had destroyed much of its Old City, including the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, and the Arch of Triumph. In addition to decimating the site’s ancient monuments, ISIS beheaded eighty-two-year-old Khaled al-Assad, the Syrian archaeologist and head of antiquities at the site.

UNESCO director general Irina Bokova has condemned ISIS’s campaign of cultural cleansing and described the destruction in Palmyra as a “war crime” and an “immense loss for the Syrian people and the world.”

The city had once been a popular tourist destination, attracting up to 150,000 visitors each year. Following the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, it was added to the world’s list of endangered World Heritage sites.

 

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