Syrian Forces Retake IS Held City Palmyra

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Syrian troops backed by Russian forces recaptured the famed ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group on Sunday in a major victory over the jihadists.


President Bashar al-Assad has hailed the recapture of Palmyra from so-called Islamic State (IS) as an “important achievement” in the “war on terrorism”.

A monitoring group has backed the Syrian government’s claim that the city was recaptured overnight by the army.

Military sources say the Syrian army now has “full control”. It had been gaining ground for several days, supported by Russian air strikes.

President Assad said this showed the success of the army’s strategy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Mr Assad, a Kremlin spokesman said.

The Kremlin said President Assad knew the Palmyra operation “would have been impossible without Russia’s support”.

Strategically important area

IS seized the Unesco World Heritage site and modern town in May 2015.

Images released by the Syrian military on Saturday showed helicopters and tanks firing at positions in Palmyra.

The date of the footage could not be independently verified.

Palmyra is situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said there was still gunfire in the eastern part of the city, but the bulk of the IS force had pulled out and retreated further east.

Why IS militants destroy ancient sites

Palmyra and the logic of loss

In a statement released on Saturday, Russia’s defence ministry said the strikes hit 158 IS targets, killing more than 100 militants.

A victory for Assad – Lina Sinjab, BBC News, in neighbouring Lebanon

This is a victory for President Bashar al-Assad, who wants to show the world that he is a partner in fighting terrorism.

Backed by Russian war planes and Shia militias, government forces gained control over the ancient city and are now close to securing a vast area of the country.

But residents and observers cast doubts on why Mr Assad’s forces pulled out from Palmyra in the first place, allowing Islamic State (IS) militants to get in to the city.

In May 2015, hundreds of IS fighters drove hundreds of kilometres across the desert to reach Palmyra, almost uninterrupted, while government forces were dropping barrel bombs over opposition areas full of civilians.

President Assad has now secured a stronger position in the peace talks. He is certainly seen as a problem-solver, but many say he is the source of the problem.

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