The battle for Palmyra is over but the reminders of the dangers are ever present as a team from France 2 discovered. They spent time there with the Syrian army.
The ancient city was booby trapped by the so-called Islamic State with hidden mines planted all around.
“This is a homemade bomb which we have disarmed it was under the road right here. There were ones close by which we could not make safe and so we had to detonate them,” as Syrian soldier explained as he showed the crew the bomb.
The Syrian troops comb the buildings and uncover a room full of all the ingredients needed to make an arsenal of deadly weapons, explosives and home-made bombs.
“It’s a chemical laboratory with all you need to make detonators,” remarked one of the soldiers.
All the ingredients you need to make an explosive called triacetone triperoxide – TATP were on show. It is highly unstable and is what was used by ISIL in the Paris and Brussels attacks.
In the ten months the city was under control of the jihadists many fled. ISIL recruited people to replace the civil servants.
They abandoned material from the state civil court which showed that they could, for example buy a woman for three euros for six months. The youngest was 14 years old.
In other documents there were lists from the Islamic court with disobedience and smoking punished with a sentence of 15 days in jail.
The court was feared by the people. One man said he was jailed for 15 days, denounced by his neighbours. He claimed there were 100 altogether crammed into his cell. The inmates wrote their names on the walls.
“They kept us in a state of permanent terror. They told us you have only two options: decapitation or slaughter,” he told France 2.
He was released, many were not. Mohamed fled the city before the arrival of the jihadists but his son did not want to leave.
“My son told them: I am beyond reproach, Palmyra is my city, I like it. They answered: we will not give you the pleasure of being executed here. They took him to the next city and they shot him there. They filmed the execution and they put it on the internet. What more can I add. May God curse those who came and killed people who had done nothing,” he explained.
He never found the body of his son.
Outside Palmyra to the north Syrian soldiers discovered a mass grave.
“Here we found five men, seven women, eight children and even an infant of six months. They were all buried on top of each other,” one of the soldiers said.
Forty bodies were taken to the military hospital in Homs but others were left here. The team from France 2 saw the remains of bodies. Around 300 people were executed during the occupation of the city by ISIL.