06 February 2013

Once Upon A Time in Palmyra


This simple film shows a camel caravan passing through Palmyra and moving on to Baalbek some time in the 1930s.* I'd hate to be thought an Orientalist by calling such images timeless, but it comes pretty close to that:

 
But time has moved on.  Al-Jazeera had this news report today.   

Suicide bombings hit central Syria town of Palmyra. 

The official Syrian news agency said the attack took place in a residential area in Palmyra. An activist group claimed that a military intelligence headquarters was targeted and that at least 12 members of the security forces had died. Video footage showed a large cloud of thick smoke rising in the city.
  

It looks to me to be in a part of the new town to the north of the Roman-era ruins.  The buildings are surrounded by a protective wall (visible in the foreground).

The attack occurred at about 06:00 local time (08:00 GMT), according to local activists:
The first bomber reportedly blew up his explosives-laden car next to a back wall of the military intelligence compound. The second assailant is said to have then driven through the hole, detonating the bomb inside his vehicle and destroying parts of the facility. 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based activist group, said at least 12 members of the security services had been killed and more than 20 others injured.

Retaliatory Shelling

Abu al-Hassan, one of the local activists, reported that tanks stationed inside the intelligence compound had fired shells into an adjacent residential district following the attack, killing several civilians.  Eight civilians have been injured, some severely, by heavy gunfire that followed the bombings.  Rebel fighters were said to have attacked the buildings soon after the double blasts.  Roadblocks across the city also came under attack.  There were claims of "huge material damage".

Protests broke out in Palmyra at the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, but the army has since tightened control of the town, which is situated near a major oil pipeline junction.

Zenobia has been reporting throughout 2012 on violence and looting in the town (designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO).  See Syrian Army Attacks Palmyra -- with multiple updates.  More news on the latest fighting as I get it....



 * The film begins at Palmyra, and then (at 3.30'), when a gang of children run down the stairs, you have been suddenly transported to Baalbek. The sound track is inaudible: I'm even unsure of the language (any ideas?). The film clip was generously made available on YouTube (8 Nov. 2012) by Huntley Film Archives, one of the largest independent film libraries in the UK. 

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