Tags: Iraq | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | Syria | War on Terrorism | Palmyra

Report: US Not Ruling Out Airstrikes on Syria's Ancient Palmyra

By    |   Friday, 22 May 2015 10:06 PM

The historic Syrian city of Palmyra may not be spared U.S. airstrikes now that Islamic State (ISIS) militants have overrun the ancient metropolis, known for its irreplaceable ruins and cultural treasures, USA Today reports.

"Just can't say definitively that you won't see strikes," a Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told USA Today. "We'll keep that option on the table."

Another unnamed Pentagon official told USA Today that bombing runs on Palmyra, which ISIS captured this week, are not likely because of a "tacit understanding" between the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIS and the government of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Yet officials also fear that ISIS fighters who now control Palmyra will smash the ruins themselves, as they have done in captured Iraqi cities such Nimrud and Mosul, CNN reports.

With its millennia-old stone colonnades and temple grounds, Palmyra is a United Nations-designated World Heritage Site dating to the first century. It is recognized as an early civilizational crossroads, reflected in architecture and artifacts blending Roman, Persian, and other influences.

It is also home to a Sunni-majority population numbering tens of thousands. Palmyra fell on Wednesday, as ISIS fighters overwhelmed government forces and then reportedly combed the city identifying and executing Assad loyalists.

"The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East, and its civilian population," said Irina Bokova, director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Access to priceless cultural artifacts is also a potential source of ISIS revenue.

After a successful raid in Syria last weekend that killed an ISIS leader, Abu Sayyaf, coalition forces found "a trove of antiquities, including ancient coins and a Bible" that were apparently destined for black-market sale, USA Today reports.

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The historic Syrian city of Palmyra may not be spared U.S. airstrikes now that Islamic State militants have overrun the ancient metropolis,known for its irreplaceable ruins and cultural treasures, USA Today reports.
Palmyra, Syria, ISIS, historic, airstrikes, ancient, treasures
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2015-06-22
Friday, 22 May 2015 10:06 PM
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