Syrian Regime Forces ‘Retake Palmyra’ From ISIS

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Damascus: Syrian government forces retook all of Palmyra from ISIS, a military source told Agence France-Presse on Sunday.

It was earlier reported that Syrian regimef orces advanced into Palmyra on Saturday with heavy support from Russian air strikes, taking control of several districts in a major assault against ISIS fighters, Syrian state media and a monitoring group said.

Television footage showed waves of explosions inside Palmyra and smoke rising from buildings, as tanks and armored vehicles fired from the outskirts.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was the biggest assault in a three-week campaign by the Syrian army and allied militia fighters to recapture the desert city and open up the road to ISIS strongholds further east.

Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said Syrian soldiers and allied militias had taken control of one-third of Palmyra, mainly in the west and north, including part of the ancient city and its Roman-era ruins. Soldiers were also fighting on a southern front, he said.

Syrian media and Arab television channels broadcasting from the slopes of Palmyra’s mediaeval citadel, one of the last areas of high ground seized by the army on Friday, said troops had advanced inside Palmyra and had taken several neighborhoods.

The recapture of Palmyra, which the extremist group seized in May 2015, would mark the biggest reversal for ISIS in Syria since Russia’s intervention turned the tide of the five-year conflict in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

The group and al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch the Nusra Front are excluded from a month-long cessation of hostilities that has brought a lull in fighting between the government and rebels battling Assad in western Syria.

The limited truce has allowed some aid deliveries to get to previously inaccessible areas under siege.

The International Committee for the Red Cross said on Saturday it brought food and hygiene items to three areas of south Damascus the day before. Agencies