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More than 80% of Palmyra antiquities are in satisfactory condition — expert

March 29, 2016, 12:02 UTC+3 BEIRUT

However, according to the expert, "the reconstruction of the destroyed and damaged monuments will take about five years if the timely financial support is provided"

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

BEIRUT, March 29. /TASS/. The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria has sent to the city of Palmyra that has been liberated from the Islamic State (IS) terrorists the first group of its experts. The SANA news agency reported on Tuesday that the experts have preliminarily examined the surviving antiquities of the ancient city, which was in the hands of IS militants since May 21, 2015.

Director of the directorate’s architectural center Nazir Awad told the news agency that "more than 80% of the antiquities in the territory of the museum preserve have survived and are in a satisfactory condition." However, according to him, "the reconstruction of the destroyed and damaged monuments will take about five years if the timely financial support is provided."

"The Syrian government hopes that UNESCO will join this work as a partner and provide all the necessary assistance," the expert said. "The threat to the ancient buildings persists as the militants dug their hideouts beneath them. We still have to assess the degree of danger of these underground works to the surviving monuments," Awad said.

Vandals from the Islamic State of terrorist group that controlled the city have plundered the local lore museum that kept the relics found during excavations. According to the Syrian television channel Al Ekhbariya, the museum halls are devastated, the statues of the patricians and the pagan gods are broken, as well as the precious mosaic panels that are now on the floor in a pile of debris and collapsed plaster. There is no statue of the Lion of Al-lat (1st century AD) at the entrance to the museum. It was destroyed by the IS vandals immediately after they seized Palmyra. In addition to the famous Arch of Triumph - the city’s architectural landmark, the terrorists also destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin (2nd century BC), the Sanctuary of the Semitic god Bel and the Palmyra necropolis - tower tombs of the patricians.

The city, which is called a "gem" of the Syrian desert, was one of the richest centers of ancient civilization. The Great Silk Road ran through Palmyra, located in an oasis 240 km from Damascus. The extant ruins of the ancient city are included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list.

The Syrian army said on Sunday that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, with support from the Russian air group and special forces, including Russian military advisers.

Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province some 210 kilometers from Damascus, was seized by gunmen of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in early summer 2015. The Syrian authorities said back then that Palmyra with its monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, could share the fate of Iraq’s ancient cities of Assur, Nimrud and Hatra that were destroyed by Islamic State militants.

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