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Syrian army abandons city of Palmyra in fights with IS militants

May 21, 2015, 10:39 UTC+3 BEIRUT

Palmyra has a number of invaluable archeological sites and is listed as a UNESCO site of Outstanding Universal Value

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BEIRUT, May 20. /TASS/. Units of the Syrian Army on Wednesday moved out of the city of Palmyra, some 240 km away from Damascus, where unique archeological sites dating back to antiquity are located.

Surya al-Ain news channel said on Wednesday the troops had taken defensive positions on the outskirts of the ancient city and continued keeping control of an automobile road leading to Homs and Damascus.

Palmyra was a cluster of commercial caravan routes from the 1st through to the 3rd centuries A.D. It has a number of invaluable archeological sites. UNESCO has listed it as a site of Outstanding Universal Value.

Civilian population was evacuated from Palmyra earlier and the government forces managed to remove the most previous statues and bas-reliefs.

Syrian Air Force was delivering strikes at the places of biggest concentration of Isil militants, who had penetrated the city from the Northeast.

To seize the city, which the Syrian troops had been defending for more than a week, Isil had to move reinforcements from Anbar Province in Iraq.

Maamoun Abdulkarikm, the General Director of Syria Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums issued an appeal somewhat earlier to the commanders of the Syrian government army and the international community to defend what he called the gem of the Syrian desert.

A battle between civilization and barbarianism is unfolding near the walls of the antique city of Palmyra, he wrote.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova voiced concern over the possibility of Palmyra’s becoming the next victim of Isil’s outrages after the destruction of Nimrud and the devastation of the museum in Mosul.

Dr. Bokova demanded an immediate suspension of all the military actions in the vicinity of the invaluable compound of cultural monuments of the later Roman epoch.

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