A Syrian official on Thursday called on the international community to protect the 2,000-year-old ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, now threatened by advancing Islamic State militants.
Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums, told The Associated Press by telephone that the U.S.-led coalition, which has been striking the extremists in Syria since September, should expand its raids to hit IS fighters battling government forces at the gates of Palmyra.
“If Daesh enter the city it will be a human catastrophe,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group. “If Daesh enters the city it will mean destroying the temples, ruins and tombs.”
Palmyra is known for its Roman-era ruins, which once attracted thousands of tourists, who came to see its towering colonnades and a temple to the god Baal.
The UNESCO world heritage site in the ancient oasis city is Syria’s most famous, and includes other attractions such as a theater, Efqa Spring and the Temple of Baalshamin.
Since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011, looters have stolen artifacts from museums and damaged the ruins of Palmyra.
Read More: Syrian official: World must protect ancient city from IS