Fresh satellite imagery captured by DEIMOS-2 shows further destruction at the ancient city of Palmyra, in Syria, since it was retaken by ISIS last December. Two of the main monuments were reportedly damaged: the Roman theatre appears to present fresh deterioration and most of the Tetrapylon’s columns were demolished.

Also known as the “pearl of the desert”, Palmyra is an endangered UNESCO World Heritage site northeast of Damascus. Founded in the second millennium B.C., the city reached its peak between the first and third centuries AD as an oasis of date palms and gardens in the Syrian desert. For 1,500 years, Pamlyra remained one of the best-preserved sites from antiquity. Until ISIS seized the site in May 2015, razing ruins from it, blowing up the magnificent Temple of Bel and the Temple of Baal Shamin, ancient colonnades, arches, statues and even tombs. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova described the destruction as “a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.”

Several World Heritage sites have been caught up in ongoing conflicts such as the ones in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. A lot of them have been damaged and destroyed, while many others remain at risk.

Preserving our cultural heritage is key to enhance sustainable development. However, monitoring these sites is a complex task, given their location. Our very high resolution satellite imagery ensures reliable and timing monitoring over heritage sites located in areas affected by ongoing conflicts and threats, where it’s difficult to get up to date information and to verify potential damages otherwise.