IS ‘execute 26 civilians’, threaten Syria’s Palmyra, city with ancient Roman antiquities

Roman ruins at Palmyra, Syria

Islamic State group fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian world heritage site could face destruction of the kind the jihadists have already wreaked in Iraq.

As it overran nearby villages, IS executed 26 civilians — 10 of whom were beheaded — for “collaborating with the regime,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Syria’s head of antiquities issued an urgent appeal for international action to save Palmyra, saying extremist militants were less than two kilometres (barely a mile) from the remains of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

The world “must mobilise before, not after, the destruction of the artefacts” at the site, Mamoun Abdulkarim said in a telephone call.

“IS has not entered the city yet, and we hope these barbarians will never enter,” he said.

“But if IS enters Palmyra, it will be destroyed and it will be an international catastrophe,” Abdulkarim added.

UNESCO describes Palmyra as a heritage site of “outstanding universal value”…