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A photo from the Syrian ministry of culture documenting the temple of Ain Dara after the Turkish military’s air strike.

Turkish Military Forces Severely Damage Ancient Syrian Temple

The Art Newspaper’s Martin Bailey reports that the Syro-Hittite Ain Dara temple, located in northwest Syria and almost three thousand years old, was severely damaged during a Turkish air raid against Kurdish separatists. “The loss is as great as that suffered at Palmyra, a site of comparable importance,” said Jonathan Tubb, the British Museum’s head of its Middle East Department. (ISIS destroyed a number of important monuments in Palmyra from 2015 through 2017, including the Arch of Triumph and a fair portion of a Roman amphitheater.)

Ain Dara was discovered in 1955. By that time, much of it had already disappeared, but carved reliefs of sphinxes and lions remained mostly intact. The Turkish military hit the temple’s main doorway, which devastated the southeastern and central areas of the structure. Ain Dara is not militaristically significant, which suggests that the site was targeted on purpose. If this is the case, the destruction is a breach of The Hague Convention on the safeguarding of cultural property during war.

Syria’s ministry of culture “condemns the Turkish attacks on archaeological sites,” according to a statement, which goes on to say that the attack on the temple “reflects the hatred and barbarism of the Turkish regime against the Syrian identity.” The full extent of Ain Dara’s destruction is not yet known.

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