US-led coalition strikes Palmyra, destroys 22 ISIS targets

ISIS-militants-blow-up-Arch-of-Triumph-in-Palmyra-just-months-after-destroying-temple-609895.jpg

ISIS militants, Palmyra. File photo

ARA News

Homs Aircraft of the US-led coalition has destroyed 14 ISIS tanks and other equipment captured near Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, which was recently taken from regime forces by ISIS.

ISIS seized the tanks and other military hardware from Tiyas Military Airfield near Palmyra, Syria, 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.

“The [coalition’s] commanding general Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend made it clear during his Dec.14th press conference that we would strike the equipment before it posed a threat to counter-ISIS operations,” said Col. John Dorrian, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition. “We will not allow ISIS to maintain capabilities that threaten Coalition or partner forces.”

“The attacks occurred during daylight hours from late morning to early evening on Thursday. In addition to the 14 tanks, three artillery systems, two ISIS-held buildings, two tactical vehicles, and an air defense artillery system were also destroyed in the strike. The equipment was destroyed in the vicinity of the airfield, northeast of the city along a highway,” the coalition said.

During the operation, 16 Coalition aircraft fired 22 munitions destroying 22 targets.

“Regarding ISIS retaking Palmyra… if the Russians and the regime don’t strike it, we will,” LTG Townsend said, fearing that the equipment taken by ISIS could be used against the US-led coalition.

The Syrian president Bashar al-Assad blamed in an interview with the Russian state channel RT the United States last Wednesday. “They came with different machineguns, cannons, artillery, everything is different. So, it could only happen when they come in this desert with the supervision of the American alliance that’s supposed to attack them in al-Raqqa and Mosul and Deir Ezzor, but it didn’t happen; they either turned a blind eye on what ISIS is going to do, or -and that’s what I believe– they pushed toward Palmyra,” he said.

“So, it’s not about Mosul. We don’t have to fall in that trap. It’s about al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. They are very close, only a few hundred kilometers, they could come under the supervision of the American satellites and the American drones and the American support,” Assad stated.

However, 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.

Last Sunday, the ISIS hardline group recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs Governorate. Activists and military sources confirmed the rout, reporting that the army had been forced to withdraw under fire. “The army withdrew after the clashes reached the city center and it became impossible for them to push ISIS back,” local media activist Abas al-Omar told ARA News.

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

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

Reporting by: Haytham Mustafa and Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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