Syria's antiquities chief has said that an attempt by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to blow up the famed Temple of Bel in Syria's Palmyra has rocked the ancient ruins, but that the site appears to be largely intact.

"We have information from our people in Palmyra that there was an explosion inside the walls of the Temple of Bel but its central building is still standing," Mamoun Abdulkareem, the country's director of antiquities and museums, told the DPA news agency by phone from Damascus.

"The frontal columns and the cella (interior) of the temple do not appear to have been damaged," Abdulkarim said on Monday.

"Antiquities staff are not able to enter the site to see close up," he told the AFP news agency.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said late on Sunday that ISIL fighters had set off explosives inside the 2,000-year-old temple, at least partially destroying the centrepiece of Palmyra's famed ruins.

The reports came a week after ISIL blew up the smaller Baal Shamin temple at the Greco-Roman site.

The destruction of Baal Shamin was confirmed by photos published by the group and satellite images of Palmyra taken by the UN.

ISIL seized Palmyra from Syria's regime on May 21, and shortly after was reported to have mined its ancient sites.

The group has also beheaded the 82-year-old former antiquities chief in Palmyra and destroyed a famed statue outside its museum.

ISIL previously destroyed ancient monuments in neighbouring Iraq as well as Christian and Islamic religious sites.

Source: Agencies