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UNESCO chief welcomes push to liberate ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

25 March 2016 8:16


Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova has hailed Syrian forces’ recent recapture of parts of the ancient city of Palmyra.

“I welcome the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, … which carries the memory of the Syrian people, and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region a cradle of civilization,” Bokova said on Thursday, hours after Syrian armed forces entered Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) following fierce clashes with Daesh terrorists.

“For one year, Palmyra has been a symbol of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East,” the UNESCO chief added.

Daesh captured the ruins of Palymra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the adjacent modern city in May 2015, destroying ancient monuments there, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph.

On Thursday, Syrian state television said government troops drove back Daesh militants and reached the “heart” of the city.

Army forces have retaken control of Palmyra’s hotel district as well as the farms situated west of the city.

Meanwhile, Maamoun Abdelkarim, Syria’s antiquities chief, praised the “imminent” liberation of the entire Palmyra, vowing to rebuild monuments destroyed by Daesh terrorists.

“The nightmare is nearly over, before it is too late, before the total destruction of the ancient city,” said Abdelkarim, who added, “I think this 10-month period has been the worst of our lives.”

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