American airstrike kills ISIS commander near Palmyra

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Militants of the Islamic State (IS). File photo

ARA News 

Homs – A US-led coalition airstrike has killed at least seven Islamic State (ISIS) militants, including the group’s military commander in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

Local activists reported that the air raid occurred on Thursday and targeted an ISIS convoy in the vicinity of Palmyra city, east of Homs Governorate.

ISIS commander Amr As’ad, also known as al-Mukahal, was killed along with six other militants in the airstrike.

Al-Mukahal was leading ISIS operations in Palmyra.

“The convoy was heading from Palmyra city to the T4 Military Airport in the eastern countryside of Homs when a US airstrike targeted them,” media activist Amro al-Hussein told ARA News.

“The death of al-Mukahal was another blow to the Islamic State,” al-Hussein said.

This comes amid intensifying fighting between ISIS militants and the Syrian Army forces over the T4 airbase.

On Wednesday, the Syrian Army repulsed an Islamic State offensive, driving the jihadists away from the T4 Military Airport. The extremist group had tried to storm the airbase earlier in the day, bombarding it with Grad rockets and mortar shells.

The Islamic State recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra on December 11. Military sources confirmed the rout, reporting that the army had been forced to withdraw under fire.

On December 16, aircraft of the US-led coalition destroyed 14 ISIS tanks and other equipment captured near Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, which was recently taken from regime forces by ISIS. During the operation, 16 Coalition aircraft fired 22 munitions destroying 22 targets.

The group seized the tanks and other military hardware from Tiyas Military Airfield near Palmyra, between 11-13 Dec after the withdrawal of the Syrian regime forces. The US-led coalition doesn’t want these tanks to pose a threat to the coalition forces.

Russia had supported the Syrian Army in Palmyra, with airstrikes and logistical support but their efforts were apparently insufficient to save the city.

Western analysts suggest the Syrian Army and Russia were not well-prepared for an ISIS offensive on Palmyra, and focused all their resources on retaking the city of Aleppo from the Syrian rebels, this while ISIS needed a victory after facing several defeats at the hands of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Army in Iraq, and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Manbij and near Raqqa.

“Regarding ISIS retaking Palmyra… if the Russians and the regime don’t strike it, we will,” the coalition’s commanding general Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said last week.

ISIS first took over Palmyra in May 2015, following a protracted battle with regime forces. The Islamic State’s occupation was exceptionally harsh, even by the standards of Syria’s 5-year-long conflict.

Reporting by: Haytham Mustafa | Source: ARA News

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