Ter­ror­ists re-en­ter historical site

Af­ter nine months, mem­bers of the Is­lamic State are back in Palmyra.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Philip Issa

beirut» Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists re-en­tered the his­toric city of Palmyra in cen­tral Syria on Satur­day for the first time since they were ex­pelled by Syr­ian and Rus­sian forces nine months ago.

The ac­tivist-run Palmyra Co­or­di­na­tion net­work said the ter­ror­ists had nearly en­cir­cled the city and en­tered its north­ern and north­west­ern neigh­bor­hoods. The group, which main­tains con­tacts inside the city, said the ter­ror­ists were ap­proach­ing the city’s UNESCO her­itage site as well.

Osama al-Khatib said govern­ment sol­diers were flee­ing Palmyra.

“The army as an in­sti­tu­tion has dis­solved,” he said. Some sol­diers and mili­ti­a­men re­main in the city, along with 120 fam­i­lies who have not been able to leave, Khatib said. He spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press from Gaziantep, Turkey.

“There is strong fight­ing on all sides,” he re­ported. “There is no exit ex­cept through a cor­ri­dor to the west.”

The dra­matic re­ver­sal in Palmyra comes days af­ter ter­ror­ists in the Iraqi city of Mo­sul launched a ma­jor coun­ter­at­tack that sur­prised Iraqi sol­diers, killing at least 20 and halt­ing their ad­vance. Iraqi special forces units have en­tered the eastern out­skirts of the largest re­main­ing Is­lamic State-held city, but their ad­vance has been greatly slowed by both a de­sire to limit civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and the re­silience of the ter­ror­ists.

Dur­ing the 10 months that the Is­lamic State held Palmyra, from May 2015 to March, the ter­ror­ists dy­na­mited sev­eral of the city’s famed an­cient Ro­man mon­u­ments and ex­e­cuted its ar­chae­o­log­i­cal direc­tor.

Af­ter the city was re­taken, the Rus­sian govern­ment staged a clas­si­cal mu­sic con­cert in the city’s soar­ing Ro­man am­phithe­ater last May to cel­e­brate the suc­cess. The Syr­ian and Rus­sian govern­ment main­tain they are de­fend­ing the global com­mu­nity against Is­lamic ter­ror­ism in the coun­try’s dev­as­tat­ing 5½-year war.

Af­ter tak­ing Palmyra, the two states turned their at­ten­tion to wip­ing out the in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion in Da­m­as­cus and Aleppo, leav­ing the his­toric city rel­a­tively un­guarded. Syr­ian state me­dia had no com­ment.

Ma­her Al Mounes, AFP/Getty Im­ages file

The Arch of Tri­umph, also called the Mon­u­men­tal Arch of Palmyra, was de­stroyed by Is­lamic State ter­ror­ists in Oc­to­ber 2015. The site is in the an­cient Syr­ian city of Palmyra.

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