There were huge concerns that the 4,000-year-old historic monuments would have been demolished
However, new drone footage reveals a surprising amount of the temple site appears to remain intact
Syrian government struck a secret deal with ISIS to ‘convince’ them not to destroy all of the city’s ancient landmarks
The Temple of Bel is pictured, left, in September last year prior to being blown up by ISIS terrorists and, right, after the city was reclaimed by Assad’s forces
The majority of Palmyra’s ancient treasures held by ISIS have been preserved because of a secret deal between the Syrian government and the terror group, a minister has revealed.
Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said behind-the-scenes work took place to ‘convince’ ISIS not to destroy all the city’s key archaeological features.
Extremists wrecked a number of important structures on the site, including the Temple of Baal, leaving experts with a difficult task of re-constructing the ancient landmarks.
But Abdulkarim said the deal with ISIS had prevented the whole city from being razed.
Pictures show how the Arc de Triomphe looked in June 2010 (left) before ISIS descended on Palmyra and destroyed some of the structure (right)
During its rule of Palmyra, IS killed scores of people and destroyed invaluable artifacts dating back more than 1,800 years, along with a famed Roman triumphal archway
IS had used Palmyra’s ancient theatre as a venue for public executions and also murdered the city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief
Russian forces, which intervened in support of longtime ally Assad last September, were heavily involved in the Palmyra offensive despite a major draw down last week
The damage within the hugely significant historical landscape was predicted to be massive following brutal combat exchanges between the extremist group and the regime
‘We were working with 45 to 50 people inside the city in order to convince Daesh, with public pressure, not to destroy everything,’ he said, using another name for ISIS.
‘Daesh saw that there would be a popular uprising against it if it destroyed everything. It didn’t steal and it didn’t destroy everything,’ he said.
It comes as extraordinary new drone footage revealed the extent of the devastation wrecked by the jihadi group after they captured Palmyra last summer.
Despite the damage, Syria’s antiquities chief believes the ancient site of Palmyra could be fully restored to its former glory in five years after Syrian government forces re-captured the ISIS-held site.
‘We were expecting the worst. But the landscape, in general, is in good shape. ‘We could have completely lost Palmyra. The joy I feel is indescribable.,’ .
‘If we have UNESCO’s approval, we will need five years to restore the structures damaged or destroyed by IS,’ he said.
Historian of the ancient world Maurice Sartre said: ‘One mustn’t forget that only around 15 to 20 per cent of Palmyra had actually been excavated, and so there was an enormous amount yet to discover.
‘All the tombs we hadn’t excavated and have now been totally pillaged are lost to science forever.’
ISIS had used Palmyra’s ancient theatre as a venue for public executions and also murdered the city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.
The Syrian army said the city would now serve as a base to ‘broaden operations’ against IS, including in its stronghold of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor further east.
At least 400 ISIS fighters were killed in the battle for the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
On the government side, 188 troops and militiamen were killed.
Assad said the victory was ‘fresh proof of the efficiency of the Syrian army and its allies in fighting terrorism’.
IS and its jihadist rival, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, are not party to a ceasefire in force across Syria since February 27.
The truce has brought relative quiet to many areas across Syria, where more than 270,000 have been killed and millions had fled their homes in the last five years.
The Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that 363 civilians had been killed since the truce went into effect – the lowest monthly toll in four years.