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With Daesh (ISIS) militants on the doorstep of his hometown in eastern Syria, Yaroob al-Abdullah had little time.Over the weekend, Syrian government forces recaptured Palmyra from the militants and discovered they had trashed the city museum, smashing statues and looting relics – though fortunately about 400 pieces had been hidden away by antiquities officials before the Daesh takeover.Khaled al-Asaad, Palmyra's retired antiquities chief, was beheaded by the militants in August after spiriting away artifacts from the city's museum.Ziad al-Nouiji, who took over from Abdullah as head of antiquities in Deir al-Zor, brought a second load of relics to Damascus last June. But otherwise he has remained in the government-held part of Deir al-Zor city.A vital crossroads throughout history, Syria holds a legacy from multiple civilizations that traded, invaded and built cities across its territory – the Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia, various Semitic kingdoms, the Romans and Byzantines, and then centuries of Islamic dynasties.In the summer of 2014, Daesh militants declared their "caliphate" stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq. They swarmed over 90 percent of Deir al-Zor province and – shortly after Abdullah's emergency museum evacuation mission – took part of Deir al-Zor city.
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