Syrian forces made a major advance against terrorists in Palmyra Friday, capturing a citadel from Daesh Takfiri terrorists after closing in on the ruins of the ancient city in Homs Province.
“Our armed forces, in coordination with the popular defense forces, have taken control of the ancient Palmyra citadel after inflicting many losses in the ranks of the terrorist group Daesh,” state television said citing a military source.
Earlier, Maamoun Abdelkarim, the chief of Syria’s antiquities, said, “In the southwest, the army has liberated the district of hotels and restaurants as well as the Valley of the Tombs.”
“And in the west, the army has taken the Syriatel hilltop that overlooks the Mamluk fort built in the 13th century, which is still under IS control,” the official added, referring to the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group by its alternative name.
Daesh overran the “Pearl of the Desert,” the title the city is known with, in May 2015. The terrorists have blown up UNESCO-listed temples and looted relics that dated back thousands of years ever since.
Syria’s state TV aired live footage of airstrikes targeting the positions of terrorists near the fort.
Abdelkarim also stated that the Syrian army has advanced “600 meters from the Temple of Bel, but it is advancing slowly because of mines and above all to protect the city, which is an ancient treasure.”
In September 2015, Daesh claimed to have destroyed the Temple of Bel. UNESCO says the site is one of the best preserved and most important first century religious edifices in the Middle East.
Syrian forces allied with volunteer fighters entered the ancient city, located in Homs Province, on Thursday. The initial offensive for the city was launched earlier in the month with the aerial backing of Syrian and Russian fighter jets.
Russia has been conducting combat sorties against the positions of terrorists in Syria, particularly Palmyra recently, since September 31, 2015. The airstrikes came upon a request from the government in Damascus.
Heavy clashes between Syrian forces and terrorists were also reported in Deir al-Zawr, the seventh largest city in eastern Syria.
Meanwhile, a senior US official, whose name was not mentioned in the report, said the second-in-command of Daesh in Syria was killed in a US airstrike on Thursday.