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ISIL razing of Palmyra’s cultural heritage "not foregone conclusion"

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By Euronews
ISIL razing of Palmyra’s cultural heritage "not foregone conclusion"

<p>Western outrage over fears <span class="caps">ISIL</span> will raze Palmyra’s cultural patrimony has handed the radicalists valuable propaganda, an expert has claimed.</p> <p>But Charlie Winter, a researcher on jihadist movements at the Quilliam Foundation, says the destruction of the Syrian city’s heritage is not a “foregone conclusion”.</p> <p><span class="caps">ISIL</span> fighters took complete control of the world heritage site on Wednesday (May 20), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.</p> <p>“I think this offensive has been long in the making, like Ramadi,” said Mr Winter. “<span class="caps">ISIL</span> is very keen on ensuring there is a perception of momentum around it.</p> <p>“We’re in the run up to Ramadan and I expect it’s a bit of a propaganda surge for them, to cause a peak of interest.</p> <p>“We cannot know for sure, but it’s important to know that it’s not a foregone conclusion that <span class="caps">ISIL</span> will destroy Palmyra.</p> <p>“<span class="caps">ISIL</span> knows it’s got to win hearts and minds and keep the local population onside.”</p> <p>Nevertheless, <span class="caps">UNESCO</span> told Euronews on Thursday (May 22) it was <a href="http://www.euronews.com/2015/05/21/unesco-very-concerned-about-ancient-syrian-city-of-palmyra/">very concerned about Palmyra</a>.</p> <p><span class="caps">ISIL</span>’s destruction of ancient artefacts in Mosul, Iraq, was <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/unesco_mobilizes_the_international_community_to_end_cultural_cleansing_in_iraq/#.VV7zGbmqqko">branded as ‘cultural cleansing’ by <span class="caps">UNESCO</span></a> in March.</p> <p>Mr Winter added: “But <span class="caps">ISIL</span> will want to capitalise on the propaganda value, because of the outcry [over destroying Palmyra’s heritage] in the West.</p> <p>“It depends whether they [senior figures within <span class="caps">ISIL</span>] think it’s worth the risk.</p> <p>“It’s about keeping the momentum up. It looks like it’s been losing ground lately and that God wasn’t on its side and that it wasn’t unstoppable.“​</p>