Syrian forces, backed by Hizbullah and Russia, retake Palmyra from ISIS

by WorldTribune Staff, March 3, 2017

Syrian regime forces, backed by Hizbullah fighters on the ground and air support from Russia, recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (ISIS) on March 2, the Syrian military said.

It was the third time the historic city had changed hands in a year. ISIS had seized Palmyra in a surprise advance in December, after having been driven out eight months before.

Palmyra has changed hands three times in the last year.

“With backing from the Syrian and Russian air forces, units of our armed forces recaptured the city of Palmyra, in cooperation with the allies,” the military said in a statement.

President Bashar Assad’s army and Iranian-backed Hizbullah forces advanced inside Palmyra on March 2 as ISIS withdrew completely, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right confirmed.

ISIS jihadists retreated to areas in the east as government forces took control of Palmyra and conducted combing operations to clear mines, the Observatory said.

The military expects the process of clearing the city to be long and difficult due to the large number of mines planted by ISIS, a Syrian military source said.

During its first occupation of Palmyra, which ended in March 2016, ISIS destroyed some of the ancient city’s priceless archaeological heritage. It is believed to have razed other parts of the historical ruins after regaining control in December, Reuters reported.

Drone footage released by Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier this month showed new damage ISIS had inflicted to the facade of Palmyra’s Roman-era theater and the adjoining Tetrapylon — a set of four monuments with four columns each at the center of the colonnaded road leading to the theater.