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ISIS destroys 2,000-year-old triumphal arch in Palmyra

Palmyra, in a photo taken in 2002, before the war. Much of the city has been destroyed (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi, File)

ISIS militants have blown up the 2,000 year triumphal arch in Palmyra, it has been reported.

The latest act of destruction was reported by Syria’s head of antiquities, Maamun Abdulkarim, who reported that the terror group had detonated a bomb they had laid several weeks ago.

“We have received news from the site that the Arch of Triumph was destroyed yesterday (Sunday). ISIS booby-trapped it several weeks ago,” antiquities director Maamun Abdulkarim told AFP.

ISIS has already destroyed the shrine of Baal Shamin and the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel. The group also murdered the city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.

Last week Russia escalated its intervention into Syria on the side of the Bashar al-Assad government, attacking rebel groups in the north-west of the country, as well as ISIS. Russia’s Orthodox Church has given its support to the campaign against ISIS, which has murdered and kidnapped hundreds of Christians, as well as Muslims and Yazidis.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan made a plea to Western Christians to save his people, warning of a crisis of biblical proportions, reports Catholic News Service.

The patriarch made his plea during a trip to Michigan late last month, which is home to one of the largest Chaldean Catholic communities outside the Middle East.

Speaking at St Toma Syriac Catholic Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan, he warned: “The situation is very devastating and tragic. For Iraq, this has been happening for two generations. For Syria, the war has been taking place for the last three years, with no hope on the horizon for Christians in the area.”

Patriarch Younan described the destruction of churches, the trafficking of women and girls as sex slaves, and the forced conversion of Christians to Islam.

“The crisis is evolving into more killings, more hostages and a struggle with no end in sight. We’ve been through these struggles for 14 months, since the fall of Mosul on June 10, 2014. Since then, all the Christian communities in northern Iraq have been wiped out.”

Patriarch Younan said Syrian and Iraqi Christians don’t want to leave their land, but do so out of fear of Islamic State militants. He said the solution is for Western powers to use their economic, political and even military strength to stop ISIS and promote stable governments in the Middle East that protect the rights of religious minorities.

“We are begging the West to stand for the rights of all citizens in Iraq and Syria,” Patriarch Younan said. “The West can’t be just about introducing democracy when you have a majority of Muslims who don’t want a separation of church and state.”