This week’s destruction of the temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, has brought the Islamic State’s brutality into the international spotlight once again, just like they wanted it to. I’m grateful that at least I got to see the place before it was destroyed. I’ve written about it in my post Memories of Palmyra before ISIS.
Palmyra isn’t just a unique archaeological site, it’s strategically important too. Located at a crossroads in eastern Syria, from there it’s possible for ISIS to supply all their operations in that sector, including their push for the Syrian capital of Damascus.
I’ve written here before about how they wrecked the Assyrian sites around Mosul and destroyed the unique desert city of Hatra, both in Iraq. Many of the photos I took there can never be taken again. Now they’re turning their sights on Syria’s heritage.
Losing territory to the Kurds in the northeast, and realizing they can’t easily push into the Shia areas of Iraq after vowing to kill them all for apostasy, Islamic State is making a renewed offensive to the west into Syria, a divided and mostly Sunni region where they have a better chance to gaining ground. It was in Syria, in 1993 and 1994, where I first got a deep appreciation for many aspects of Arab culture and gained fond memories of visiting the country’s matchless archaeological sites.