Earlier this week, the Syrian army drove ISIS out of the city of Palmyra, which contains a spectacular set of ancient structures dating back nearly 2,000 years.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site was first captured by the militant group in May 2015.
These striking images, captured by photographer Maher al Mounes after the battle, show what remains of the historic site after nearly a year of ISIS occupation. The militant group has destroyed many monuments across Iraq and Syria that it considers blasphemous to its hard-line version of Islam.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a fair bit of bad news — but also a lot of good.
ISIS initially promised it would level any parts of Palmyra that it deemed as promoting idolatry, but miraculously much of the old city is still standing.
That includes the city’s citadel, which was the site of some of the fighting.
And these columns, lining a Roman-era street.
This stunning amphitheater remains largely intact.
Its magnificent entryway was, thankfully, spared as well.
Unfortunately, this entryway is all that remains of the Temple of Bel, a pre-Islamic house of worship from the first century AD, that ISIS leveled in September 2015.
The city’s famous Triumphal Arch (Arc de Triomphe), which straddled a road that dates back to the Roman Empire, was also destroyed by the militant group.
While we celebrate the recapture — and mourn the loss — of the ancient city, it’s important to note that this is what modern-day Palmyra and the towns surrounding it look like after 10 months of occupation and fighting:
According to NPR, most of the city’s residents fled when it was overrun by ISIS last year. The rest were either killed or moved with ISIS deeper into its territory.
A U.N. analysis found that 11,000 people were displaced by the initial invasion, many of whom were forced to take shelter in neighboring towns.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a staggering 4.8 million people have fled the country.
In the coming months, archeologists plan to assess the damage to the ancient city and see what can be restored.
Much of the historic site may be rebuilt, in time. Syrian director of antiquities Maamoun Abdelkarim recently told The Guardian that he believes his team has more than enough images and materials to reconstruct the city’s temples.
Reversing the damage is going to take time, effort, and money — but many are joining the cause.
In addition to the Syrian government’s efforts, groups around the world are pitching in. A Boston-based group of researchers has launched an international effort to build a master list of sites that are most at-risk and are soliciting donations to help fund their intervention.
And UNESCO has launched an awareness campaign to draw attention to the threat to Syria’s major historic landmarks.
These are critically important steps. But all the awareness in the world could easily be for naught without an end to the violence in Syria.
Not just for its people, but its history as well.