The Syrian regime prevented civilians in Tadmur from evacuating the city as ISIS captured the area on Tuesday, according to reports received by the United Nations from sources.
The UN said the sources are reliable though the UN has no representative office in Syria. Moreover, the UN expressed its anxiety about the future of the civilians who remained in the city in the light of rumours of mass executions carried out by ISIS.
On Tuesday, ISIS took control over the city of Palmyra after fierce confrontations with regime forces in which more than 200 were killed and wounded, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which tracks the conflict from Britain through contacts on the ground. At least 30 ISIS fighters were also killed, according to the observatory.
Syrian state TV SANA confirmed the withdrawal of Syrian forces from the city.
Activists broadcasted a sound recording in which an eyewitness said, “The regime had delivered the city to ISIS deliberately without any kind of resistance, sending some of the low-rated Sunni soldiers to the front line of confrontations, while the high-rated officers were evacuated earlier.”
Also, Syrian regime forces withdrew on Friday from Al Tanf, also known as the Al Waleed crossing in Iraq, as ISIS gained control of the area, the SOHR reported.
“ISIS controls more than 95,000 square km of Syria, which is 50 percent of the country's entire territory,” the SOHR said. ISIS currently controls the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is used as the de facto capital of their proclaimed “Caliphate.”
The group has also been making gains in Iraq, capturing Ramadi last week after weeks of fighting. The city of Mosul and most of Tikrit are also under their control.
Lebanese detainees in Tadmor prison
ISIS also captured the historical site of Palmyra, a military base as well as the famous prison of Tadmur. The prison was used by the regime to keep thousands of political and military prisoners including Lebanese detainees.
Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition, said they had received information that the regime either killed the prisoners or delivered them to ISIS.
Meanwhile, an opposition group of activists who are monitoring Palmyra or Tadmor said on social media: “We do assure that the regime had moved the prisoners within the last week, and there were no prisoners in remained when ISIS entered there.”
About 625 Lebanese detainees are expected to be in Syrian prisons, most of them in Tadmor. They have been detained there for more than 30 years, Ghazi Aad, the head of Support for Lebanese in Detention and Exile said.
“If this is true, it means that it is proof that there are Lebanese detained in Syria and it opens the door to justice.”
MTV, a Lebanese news channel, broke the news on Thursday after the city of Tadmor fell to ISS that 27 Lebanese detainees, including five Christians, some of whom had been imprisoned for over 35 years, had been set free.
However, the situation of the prisoners is still unknown.
Historical heritage at risk
UNESCO expressed its anxiety about the ruins in Palmyra which is considered a historical heritage site as ISIS had previously bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrud in Iraq.
“The site has already suffered four years of conflict, it suffered from looting and represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people and for the world,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement.
“I appeal to all parties to protect Palmyra and make every effort to prevent its destruction,” she added.