Palmyra: Satellite image of IS destruction

By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent

image copyrightCNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS
image captionThe temple is reduced to a pile of rubble in this picture taken just a few days ago

A French satellite system has imaged the destroyed Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra in Syria.

The ancient building, which dates to the 1st Century AD, was blown up by Islamic State militants.

The "before" image was acquired on 22 May by the Pléiades Earth-observation system, which is managed by Airbus Defence and Space.

The "after" view comes from 25 August. Even with the slight difference in angle, it is clear the temple has gone.

The UN training and research agency (Unitar) said its satellite system had also confirmed the destruction of the temple.

"It has been flattened," spokesman Einar Bjorgo told AFP news agency.

IS took control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears for the Unesco World Heritage site. The group's fighters had previously levelled a number of ancient monuments in Iraq.

image copyrightCNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS
image captionBaalshamin stands proud in this Pléiades image from 22 May
image copyrightAP
image captionImages released by IS purportedly showed the temple's destruction

The militants believe any shrines or statues implying the existence of another deity are sacrilege and idolatry, and should be torn down.

Unesco has called the deliberate destruction of Syria's cultural heritage a war crime.

Its director-general, Irina Bokova, accused IS of seeking to "deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history".

Ancient city of Palmyra

media captionHistorian Dan Cruickshank explains the significance of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra
  • 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 and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos