Syrian regime forces retake Palmyra citadel from DAESH

Syrian regime forces recapture citadel of ancient city of Palmyra from DAESH

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

An archive photo of the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria.

Updated Mar 25, 2016

Syrian regime forces recaptured the old citadel of Palmyra overlooking the city's ancient ruins on Friday, state media and a monitoring group said, in an offensive which could open up much of eastern Syria to regime forces.

The recapture of Palmyra, which the DAESH terrorists seized in May 2015, would mark the biggest single gain for Bashar Al Assad since Russia intervened in September and turned the tide of the five-year conflict in his favor.

Syrian regime forces advanced into the historic city of Palmyra on Thursday backed by Russian air cover seeking to recapture it from the DAESH terrorists, Syrian regime-run TV and a monitoring group said.

The terrorists seized Palmyra in May 2015, to open a road to the mainly DAESH-held eastern province of Deir al Zor. They have blown up ancient temples and tombs since capturing the city, something the UN cultural agency UNESCO has called a war crime. 

The regime-run news channel Ikhbariya on Thursday said regime forces had taken over a hotel district in the west.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army had reached the start of a residential area southeast of the city and have also made gains to the north.

The SANA news agency, controlled by regime, showed jets flying overhead, helicopters firing missiles, and regime forces and armoured vehicles approaching Palmyra.

Syrian regime forces stand near a tank during their advance into the historic city of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA on March 24, 2016. (Reuters)

Civilians began fleeing after the terrorists told them using loudspeakers to leave the center as fighting drew closer, the Observatory said. The Observatory monitors the war using a network of sources on the ground.

A US-led coalition, which is conducting air strikes in Syria and Iraq against the terror group, said it hit DAESH targets near Palmyra on Wednesday.

"Since September 2014 the coalition has conducted over 3,650 air strikes in Syria," said a US Defence Department spokesman.

"There is no US military or Coalition cooperation with either the Assad government [regime] nor the Russians." 

The capture of Palmyra and advances further eastwards into Deir al Zor would mark the most significant regime gain against DAESH since the start of Russia's military intervention last September.

Although Russia has long said its air campaign targets DAESH, members of the NATO alliance accuse it of targeting moderate groups opposed to Assad, including some that enjoy US and Turkish support.

The Amnesty International reported that Russian air strikes in support of Syrian regime have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and caused massive destruction in residential areas, striking homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities, in a pattern of attacks that show evidence of violations of international humanitarian law.

TRTWorld, Reuters