“The destruction is part of a very skillful propaganda campaign,” Azm said. “The purpose of these atrocities is very simply to demonstrate Isis’s ability to act with impunity and the impotence of the international community to stop them.”
Azm said he and other experts were mostly aware of the damage to the archaeological site as they had been tracking the destruction through satellite imagery of the site and photographs taken surreptitiously by activists living there. However, he said he was only now seeing the destruction to the inside of the Palmyra museum, which was transformed into a court by Isis.
Azm said the museum appeared to have been ravaged by the militants, who destroyed dozens of artifacts before government troops expelled them from the city.
The advancing soldiers were warned to take care of mines and bombs planted by Isis that could wreak further damage to the site. Maamoun Abdelkarim, Syria’s current director of antiquities, told the Guardian in an interview over the weekend that once this process is complete, archaeologists will be sent in to estimate the extent of the losses, and begin the long process of reconstructing the buildings from the rubble.
“It’s still early days,” Azm said. “This is all going to take a long time.”