Terrorists re-enter historical site
After nine months, members of the Islamic State are back in Palmyra.
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.
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.