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|New York Times||-|
DAMASCUS, Syria - Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes drove Islamic State fighters from Palmyra on Sunday, ending the group's reign of terror over a town whose famed 2,000-year-old ruins once drew tens of thousands of visitors each ...
Syrian Troops Said to Recapture Historic Palmyra From ISIS
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian government forces recaptured the desert oasis city of Palmyra on Sunday, state media and a monitoring group reported, after driving out Islamic State fighters who had imposed a brutal occupation for the better part of a year, summarily executing residents and dynamiting the city’s ancient ruins.
Syrian state media, which has closely covered a three-week push by President Bashar al-Assad to regain the city, aired celebratory footage on Sunday showing government soldiers around the archaeological sites. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said that there was ongoing fighting in a few districts of the city, as well as at a military prison.
But the majority of the Islamic State contingent in Palmyra had withdrawn or been routed, with hundreds of its fighters killed, the Observatory said, highlighting the extremist group’s broader struggles to retain territory in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, the advance by Mr. Assad’s troops handed him a strategically important military victory that added weight to contention that his government is a crucial bulwark against the jihadists of the Islamic State.
The battle also provided the latest evidence of how significantly Russia’s intervention on behalf of Mr. Assad had transformed his fortunes. The Islamic State fighters had easily taken Palmyra last May from Syrian government troops that had hardly mounted a fight. The recapture of the city on Sunday came after Russia carried out intensive airstrikes in support of the government coalition attacking Palmyra.
Residents of the city had been caught between the combatants since the city fell, subject to the jihadists’ unforgiving strictures and pitiless violence, while also enduring heavy shelling on civilian areas by government forces.
During their occupation, Islamic State fighters publicized their destruction of several significant monuments in the ancient city, a Unesco World Heritage site, and the entrance of government forces over the last few days allowed closer assessments by antiquities officials.
Khaled al-Homsi, an anti-government activist and native of the city who now lives outside of Syria, said that television footage appeared to show damage to a medieval citadel that faced his former home.
The Islamic State fighters, he said, “did damage to ruins that can never be compensated.”Continue reading the main story