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Syria can restore Palmyra in five years: Official

A general view taken on March 27, 2016 shows part of the remains of the Arc of Triumph monument that was destroyed by Daesh militants. ©AFP

Syria’s director general of antiquities and museums says the country can restore the ruins of ancient city of Palmyra, which were damaged by the Daesh Takfiri militants, in five years.

"If we have UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)'s approval, we will need five years to restore the structures damaged or destroyed by IS (Daesh)," Ma’amoun Abdulkarim said on Monday.

He noted that Syria has qualified experts and knowledge in the field and that his department can start the restoration of the structures in a year.

"Eighty percent of the ruins are in good shape. My expert colleagues arrive today in Palmyra. I have asked them to assess the stones and the old city. They are taking pictures of the damage and documenting everything, and then the restoration can begin," Abdulkarim added.

His remarks came a day after Syrian forces liberated Palmyra in the west-central Homs Province, inflicting heavy losses on Daesh militants.

A general view taken on March 27, 2016, shows part of the ancient city of Palmyra with the citadel in the background, after government troops recaptured the city from Daesh militants. ©AFP

The Takfiri group took control of the ancient city in May 2015. The militants used the city’s ancient amphitheater as a location for public executions and killed Khaled al-Assa’ad, the city’s former antiquities chief.

Daesh militants also demolished Ba’al Shamin shrine and destroyed the 2000-year-old Temple of Bel and detonated the Arch of Triumph that dated back to 200 AD. Militants also destroyed a number of tower tombs.

The major gain came after Syrian army advances in the western and northern parts of Palmyra during the previous several days and intensive military operations in the south.

The liberation of Palmyra now opens up eastern Syria to the army dealing a heavy blow to the Takfiri Daesh terrorists, who are in control of most of the two provinces of Dayr al-Zawr and Raqqah.

With Palmyra under control, Syrian soldiers are determined to step up their anti-Daesh offensives on various fronts “on top being Dayr al-Zawr and Raqqah,” two provinces in Syria’s east and north, respectively, the General Command of the Syrian Army and Armed Forces said in a statement on Sunday.

Since 2011, Syria has been gripped by a militancy it blames on some foreign governments. The conflict has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 470,000 people.

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