News / Middle East

    Syrian Forces Advance on Islamic State-Held Palmyra

    Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gesture as they advance into the historic city of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA, March 24, 2016.
    Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad gesture as they advance into the historic city of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA, March 24, 2016.
    Ken Bredemeier

    Syria says its forces have fought their way into Palmyra, the ancient city held for nearly a year by Islamic State insurgents who destroyed many of its Roman-era antiquities.

    Syrian state television said Thursday that government troops backed by Russian warplanes pushed into the city. Islamic State fighters used loudspeakers to warn civilians to leave as the fighting intensified.

    The state news agency SANA showed Russian planes flying above the city, helicopters firing missiles and soldiers and armored vehicles advancing.

    Destruction

    Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site known as the "Pearl of the Desert," has been held by Islamic State since May.

    The demolition of ancient monuments like this colonnade in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria was targeted by the Islamic State group and among cultural sites destroyed in 2015.
    The demolition of ancient monuments like this colonnade in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria was targeted by the Islamic State group and among cultural sites destroyed in 2015.

    To widespread condemnation, the insurgents blew up many of the city's world-renown relics, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph, and looted centuries-old artifacts.

    FILE - An image distributed by Islamic State militants on social media on August 25, 2015 purports to show the destruction of a Roman-era temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
    FILE - An image distributed by Islamic State militants on social media on August 25, 2015 purports to show the destruction of a Roman-era temple in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

    The head of Syria's antiquities and museum's agency, Maamoun Abdulkarim, said he hoped the government's advance on the city would end the "nightmare" of last year's Islamic State takeover. He called the fight for Palmyra a "cultural battle for the entire world, and everyone who believes in common human heritage."

    The Syrian broadcast said fighting is occurring near one of the archaeological sites. One soldier said he had a message for the Islamic State fighters: "You will be crushed under the feet of the Syrian Arab Army."

    Dwindling population

    Palmyra's one-time population of 70,000 dwindled to 15,000 under Islamic State rule. The extremists' harsh tactics, including public beheadings of supposed opponents, sparked the exodus.

    The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors fighting in Syria with frontline accounts from inside the country, said most of the residents fled before the government assault this week. "Only those too poor to flee stayed behind," the monitoring group said.

    If forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain control of Palmyra, it would be a strategic as well as symbolic victory, since the city is the gateway to the vast desert extending from central Syria to the Iraqi border.
     

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: shadow
    March 24, 2016 2:20 PM
    Last week, Putin decided to pull out from syria.it was a signal for aggrement between US and Russia.I think syria war ended.Apperantly, US and its ally lost this war.Russia,iran and Esad are winning side.I think we will understand Why US are behaving toward Russia and iran like this.But now, no one can understand this.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    March 24, 2016 1:59 PM
    Syria needs all the encouragement, everything might, to crush ISIS. Time yet to say kudos to Russia for ensuring this happens. USA shouldn’t see this as diplomatic loss on its part. The Western backing here faltered because the West was on wrong pedestal. It may also not be a diplomatic victory for Russia either given the number of innocent lives lost. But for Russia’s input, it could have gone worse.

    All effort should focus on defeating ISIS. The fox must be chased away before blaming the hen. The rebels – moderate or extremist – must have to wait for the evil sucking Syrian national blood is eliminated before asking question of power-sharing. However it’s a shame to all of them for agreeing to devastate their country at the behest of outside influence Surely many of the so-called rebels – moderates or extremists – must have lost so much that governing a post war Syria cannot be anybody’s envy even though much of the reconstruction won’t be different from the conglomerate collectivity that seems to encourage more of those devastation than peaceful coexistence.

    Reconciliation processes may start alongside winning the war against ISIS, hence all fronts are against the common enemy of Syria – ISIS.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    March 24, 2016 12:04 PM
    The Roman Empire (which ruled for almost five centuries) would be very disappointed that these flash in the pan islamic psychotic murderers are trying to erase them from history.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 24, 2016 10:48 AM
    [The tide has turned] .. The Syrian government of Assad has begun liberating the Syrian people from the terrorist/rebels 5 plus years of terror, with the support of Russia and Iran, and with the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Iranian volunteer fighters defending Syria against these US and their allies armed and supported terrorist/rebels? .. The Syrian war is over, but there are still pockets of resistance (like Palmyra) that must be eliminated? .. God bless the Syrian people now? .. now that the Syrian war is over, bring an end to these terrorist/rebels, and send them back to where they came from?

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