The radical militant terror group Islamic State is now in control of more than half of Syria’s territory after it seized Palmyra the village with its huge archaeological site on Thursday, said activists who were monitoring the civil war in Syria.
Rami Abdurrahman of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights based in Britain, said that the extremists had overran the ancient archaeological site south of Palmyra, just after midnight.
State TV in Damascus acknowledged that forces that are pro-government withdrew from the area. A page on Facebook close to IS published a statement on Thursday that purportedly was from that terror group that said the soldiers of IS completed taking control of the town of Palmyra. That capture, said the Facebook post, came after forces loyal to the Syria government collapsed, leaving many dead in the streets.
An activist located in Homs a central province said that ISIS had taken the ruins over. The site has 2,000-year old Roman era colonnades that tower over it and other ruins as well as priceless artifacts.
Prior to the war, each year thousands of tourists would visit the desert outpost in a remote area of the country. The landmark is cherished by Syrians and referred to by them as the Bride of the Desert.
On Thursday, activists said that IS did not damage the ruins thus far. IS had destroyed other major archaeological sites across Iraq that predate Islam’s founding.
It was reported that hundreds of artifacts and statues were taken ahead of time in case the IS advancement was successful and the site was overrun by militants.
The SOHR said that the militant group also seized control of the military base in Palmyra, its intelligence headquarters and its prison.
Tadmur, the prison, is home to thousands of dissidents from Syria that have been imprisoned as well as tortured over many years.
A video posted on the Internet taken by an amateur, showed fighters from ISIS inside the prison burning an image of President Bashar al-Assad.
A spokesperson for the government of Syria said security forces had already transferred thousands of its prisoners from Palmyra to a jail close to Damascus.