Beirut – Syrian troops, backed by several Russian airstrikes and allied government militias, have taken control over the strategically important citadel in Palmyra from the Islamic State on Friday, local media said citing a military source.
It was also confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group in charge of following the conflict, the recapture of the city, which noted that the government had reached with the help of Russian special forces and Al Fatimi’yen, a brigade made up of Afghans who were living in Iran, as reported by the New York Times.
The recapture of the city, held by Islamist militants since May 2015, would mark the biggest advance for the government led by President Bashar al-Assad since Russia intervened in September.
According to Bebars al-Talawy, an activist who communicates with contacts in the Islamic State’s media offices via Skype, ISIS forces are now pulling out all their equipment from the city and planting land mines everywhere.
In addition to the return of the government to the city, a government soldier was known to sent a text message from the battlefield saying that they have recaptured the citadel two day ago but delayed the announcement due to the dismantling of land mines.
A strategic accomplish
The ancient city controls east routes into the heartland territory held by the militants, which includes the province of Deir al-Zor and the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa, according to Reuters.
Palmyra is also known for having the most extensive ruins of the Roman empire, temples and tombs that have been unpurpose dynamited by the Islamic State in what the United Nations has qualified as a war crime.
“I welcome the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, martyr city inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which carries the memory of the Syrian people, and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region a cradle of civilization,” said Irina Bokova from the UNESCO in a statement.
Source: The New York Times