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Hundreds of civilians start returning to Syria's Palmyra

Hundreds of civilians were transported on Saturday to the ancient city of Palmyra in the central province of Homs, following the Syrian military's recapture of that millennia-old oasis city, a government source told Xinhua.

Ten buses carrying civilians, including women and children, headed on Saturday to Palmyra, as part of the government's efforts to return the displaced people to their homes in the city, which was taken by the Islamic State (IS) group last May and liberated by the Syrian army and allied fighters last month, a source in the city of Homs told Xinhua.

Saturday's batch is the second to enter Palmyra, as nearly 400 civilians returned last Thursday, the source said on condition of anonymity.

"Today's number is higher than that of Thursday. We have got hundreds of people heading back to their homes in Palmyra," the source added.

Palmyra, which contains 2000-year-old monuments and UNESCO world heritage, constitutes of the ancient part of the city and a residential one.

Following the Syrian army's recapture of the city late last month, the residential city was empty, except from the IS booby-traps and roadside bombs.

The Syrian army with the help of Russian sappers managed to dismantle hundreds of bombs to pave the way for the return of the civilians.

Those who are now being taken back to their homes are residents who had managed to flee the city ahead of the IS attack last May, as the rest were taken by the IS when the Syrian army approached to reclaim the city on March 27.

Since recapturing it last May, the IS destroyed important monuments in Palmyra

They destroyed the Temple of Bel, which was dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Bel, who was worshipped at Palmyra in triad with the lunar god Aglibol and the sun god Yarhibol, formed the center of religious life in Palmyra and was inaugurated in 32 AD.

Now, there is nothing left of the temple except its gate, standing still to tell the generations that there was a temple called Bel in the place.

Aside from Bel, another temple in Palmyra, Baalshamin, was destroyed, nothing left of it.

Baalshamin, whose earliest phase dates to the late 2nd century, was one of the most complete ancient structures in Palmyra. In 1980, the UNESCO designated the temple as a World Heritage Site.

The IS destroyed Baalshamin on Aug. 23, 2015.

On May 23, 2015, the IS militants partially damaged the Lion of al-Lat and other statues.

It became known on Sept. 4, 2015 that IS had destroyed three of the best preserved tower tombs including the Tower of Elahbel.

On Oct. 5, 2015, news media reported IS destroyed the Arch of Triumph.

Those were the hard-hit areas in Palmyra, but there are other areas, including the Roman amphitheater, which escaped the IS rule unscathed.

Syrian archeology officials stressed that the work will start soon for putting projects for rebuilding the bombed out sites in Palmyra with the help of international organizations, such as the UNESCO.

[Source: Xinhua, Damascus, 09Apr16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 11Apr16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.