Before Islamic State hammers have a chance to fall on the ruins of Palmyra, a leading Sunni Muslim body is appealing one last time for people to unite “in a battle of humanity” and save what UNESCO calls a historic city of “outstanding universal value.”
The call comes just as Syrian fighter jets were bombarding terrorist positions from the sky early on Monday.
The terrorist group has already killed 400 people in the ancient Syrian city, northeast of Damascus, while thousands more have been displaced by the fighting.
Now, Al-Azhar, a Cairo-based center for Islamic learning, has sounded the alarm as time runs out to prevent Palmyra from becoming another Nimrod, the Iraqi (Assyrian) city where Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) wiped thousands of years of history from existence with axes and sledgehammers.
“Protecting archeological sites from destruction and plundering is the battle of all of humanity,” the center said in a statement a day after another appeal by Syria’s antiquities director and ISIS entered the museum in the 2,000-year-old Palmyra and raised their black flag over the citadel.
Maamoun Abdulkarim, the antiquities director, on Saturday called for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution No. 2199, which was unanimously approved on February 12 and called for nations to combat terrorism by any means possible.
“We have to unite our efforts in order to protect one of the most important archaeological cities in the Middle East from being destroyed by Daesh [the Arabic acronym for Islamic State],” Al-Azhar’s statement said.
Following UNESCO’s call for a swift resolution and an end to the fighting, Al-Azhar urged the international community to do whatever it can to prevent one of the world’s most important archaeological sites from being destroyed.
Since the city’s seizure Thursday, the race has been on to save this World Heritage site – a collection of Greco-Roman ruins with intricate designs, colonnades and an ancient cemetery full of elaborately-decorated tombs.
For Al-Azhar, this isn’t just about Islamic State being prehistoric in its cruelty: the organization says it clear that nowhere in Sharia law does it say that destruction of universally-valued antiquities and heritage sites is a holy duty.