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Al-Qaryatayn had been held by terrorist groups since late August. The liberation of the city proclaimed April 3 came days after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) was pushed out of the ancient city of Palmyra, 100km (60 miles) to the east.
The jihadists apparently used a bulldozer to partially destroy St Elias Monastery, which dates back more than 1,500 years. Human bones from ancient graves are strewed amidst the rubble.
Inside the monastery there is an Assyrian church and all Christian symbols in it have been destroyed. In the church graveyard, the gravestones have been trashed and all the crosses removed.
Thankfully, the monastery’s beautiful old church is still standing, but has been severely desecrated. After an apparent attempt to set the building on fire from inside, the old beams look burnt and the floor is covered with burnt pages with texts in Assyrian from Christian holy books.
There is not one building left in Al-Qaryatayn that has escaped damage from the fighting.