Syrian regime forces advance inside Islamic State-held Palmyra

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airpower, Friday made further advances into the Islamic State-controlled city of Palmyra, a day after entering the ancient city, Syrian state media and activists reported. 

The forces are coming closer to areas where Palmyra's world-renowned ruins are located, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The regime forces are engaged in "fierce" fighting against Islamic State insurgents, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

Two car bombings occurred in an area of hotels on the outskirts of Palmyra as part of militants' counter-attack against the government forces, the Observatory said. No specific casualties were reported.

The state Syrian news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, reported that government troops recaptured the strategic Syriatel Hill located near the Palmyra Castle.

"Army units combed the hill after having destroyed the last hideouts of the terrorist organization and dismantled the explosive devices left behind by its members," the official said said.

A Syrian source close to the govenrment meanwhile confirmed that tanks and soldiers were approaching the ruins area in Palmyra, claiming that the militants have fled the site. 

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said government forces had cut off a major supply line for Islamic State from Palmyra and the town of al-Qarayatain located south-west of the historic city.

Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is strategically located in a region between the capital Damascus and the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, mostly controlled by the Islamic State militant group.

Palmyra's fall would be the regime's biggest victory since Russia began an air campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad in September. 

Islamic State seized Palmyra in Homs province in May, raising global fears about the fate of the city's artefacts.

Since the radical group's takeover of Palmyra, it destroyed several famous sites in the city, including the more than 2,000-year-old Baalshamin Temple.

It also carried out executions in the city's Roman amphitheatre, according to activists.

Last update: Fri, 25/03/2016 - 16:33
Author: 

More from World

US astronaut John Glenn - "ultimate hometown hero" - dies at age 95

Former astronaut and US senator John Glenn, who shot to fame in 1962 as the first American to orbit the Earth, died...

Gambian president-elect says he will reverse decision to leave ICC

Gambia will reverse its decision to leave the International Criminal Court, president-elect Adama Barrow announced...

Tsunami threat declared over for Solomon Islands after massive quake

The tsunami threat from Friday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake near the Solomon Islands has passed, says the Pacific...

Saudi Arabia "playing proxy wars," Boris Johnson says in latest gaffe

British ally Saudi Arabia is "puppeteering and playing proxy wars" in the Middle East and, like Iran, is "twisting...

Russia: Syrian military suspends Aleppo attacks to allow evacuation

The Syrian military has suspended its attacks on militant-held eastern Aleppo to let civilians be evacuated to...