New York, US (BBN)-A satellite image confirms that the main temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in northern Syria has been destroyed, the United Nations says.
There had been earlier reports of an explosion at the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which is held by militants from the Islamic State (IS) group, reports BBC.
Syria’s antiquities chief had earlier said the basic structure of the 2,000-year-old site was intact.
But UN satellite analysts Unosat say the image shows almost nothing remains.
“Unfortunately, the images we acquired do show that the main building of the temple has been destroyed,” Einar Bjorgo, Unosat’s manager, told the BBC early on Tuesday.
He added that a set of columns nearby had also been destroyed.
On Monday, Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Syrian Department of Antiquities and Museums, had said the Temple of Bel suffered a large explosion, but that he believed most of the site had remained intact.
Witnesses had struggled, however, to get close to the site to confirm the extent of the damage.
IS has previously targeted historical sites in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, regarding their ancient temples and sculptures as heretical.
Last week, it was confirmed that another site at Palmyra, the Temple of Baalshamin, had been blown up.
Unosat released satellite images on Monday showing the extent of the damage to the Baalshamin temple, proving that parts were heavily damaged or completely destroyed.
IS militants seized control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears for the World Heritage site.
Earlier this month the group murdered 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, the archaeologist who had looked after the Palmyra ruins for 40 years.
Unesco Director General Irina Bokova praised him, saying IS “murdered a great man, but they will never silence history”.
The world-famous Greco-Roman ruins of Palmyra are in the desert north-east of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The Temple of Bel is dedicated to the Palmyrene gods and was one of the best-preserved parts of the ancient city.
IS released a video in July showing some 20 captured government soldiers being shot dead at Palmyra’s theatre.
Syrian government forces have sought to drive IS out of the Palmyra area in recent months and there has been fierce fighting in nearby towns.
Unesco World Heritage site
Site contains monumental ruins of great city, once one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world
Art and architecture, from the 1st and 2nd Centuries, combine Greco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences
Site boasts a number of monumental projects, more than 1,000 columns, and a formidable necropolis of more than 500 tombs
More than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year before the Syrian conflict