SYR­IAN TROOPS FIGHT I.S. IN PALMYRA

Mil­i­tants forced to re­treat to eastern part of an­cient city

New Straits Times - - World -

SYR­IAN troops have pushed into Palmyra as they bat­tle to re­take the iconic city from the Is­lamic State group, but their ad­vance was slowed yes­ter­day by land­mines laid by mil­i­tants.

Bol­stered by Rus­sian airstrikes and ground troops, gov­ern­ment forces have been bat­tling through the desert of cen­tral Syria for weeks to reach Palmyra.

The city has traded hands sev­eral times dur­ing Syria’s civil war and be­come a sym­bol of IS’s wan­ton de­struc­tion of cul­tural her­itage in ar­eas un­der its con­trol.

The lat­est of­fen­sive to re­take the city saw gov­ern­ment forces break through its western lim­its on Wed­nes­day, forc­ing IS fight­ers to re­treat into eastern dis­tricts, ac­cord­ing to the Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights.

“IS with­drew from most of Palmyra af­ter lay­ing mines across the city. There are still sui­cide bombers left in the eastern neigh­bour­hoods,” said Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­del Rah­man.

In north­ern Syria, where Turkey launched a cross-bor­der op­er­a­tion in Au­gust, the US-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF) had man­aged to re­gain con­trol of two vil­lages seized on Wed­nes­day by Turk­ish-backed rebels.

One SDF fighter and two mem­bers of Turk­ish-backed Syr­ian rebel forces were killed in the lat­est clashes for con­trol of the vil­lages of Tal Turin and Qara.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said on Mon­day that the next tar­get af­ter Al-Bab would be Man­bij — a for­mer bas­tion of IS that is now un­der the con­trol of the SDF.

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