ISIS militants, Palmyra. File photo
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HOMS – Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, which was regained by Syrian army forces –supported by Russian air cover– from militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) last March, witnessed renewed clashes on Sunday.
Subsequent to clashes with the Syrian army forces, ISIS militants on Sunday captured two hills near Mount Bin Ali in Palmyra suburbs, according to military sources and local activists.
“ISIS militants launched a surprise attack on Syrian army headquarters in northwestern Palmyra. Fierce clashes took place in the vicinity of Mount Bin Ali, and ISIS fighters were eventually able to seize control of two hills that overlook the ancient city,” media activist Amro al-Hussain told ARA News in Palmyra.
The source added that the Syrian army troops withdrew towards their headquarters inside the city of Palmyra.
At least four Syrian soldiers were killed in the clashes, and ISIS was reportedly able to seize a deal of ammunitions and light weapons subsequent to the army’s withdrawal.
A Syrian army officer, who spoke to ARA News on condition of anonymity, confirmed the ISIS-led offensive in northwestern Palmyra, describing the army’s retreat as “a tactical withdrawal”.
“The terrorist group launched a surprise attack on an army position on Sunday evening. However, the clashes are still ongoing and those two hills will be regained very soon, since Daesh cannot make further movements towards the city because our army forces are heavily deployed in Palmyra suburbs,” he said, using an acronym for ISIS.
The army officer pointed out that the two hills that fell to ISIS were “not of strategic importance”, adding that the army’s withdrawal was to avoid “unnecessary losses”.
In May 2015, ISIS took over Palmyra after fierce battles with Syrian regime army forces.
In March 2016, the pro-regime troops supported by Russian air force were able to impose full control over Palmyra downtown after ISIS extremists retreated towards the northern villages of Palmyra and its eastern outskirts. The group’s leadership has later ordered its militants to withdraw towards its main bastion of Raqqa, northeastern Syria.
In August 2015, satellite images confirmed the destruction of the Baal Shamin temple in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, according to the United Nations, which condemned ISIS claims of destroying the temple.
The U.N. has slammed the destruction of the temple as a “war crime,” and the act has raised concerns for the rest of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Also, ISIS published images last August, showing militants placing explosives into the temple in order to destroy the ancient monuments arguing they are worshipped by people and must be smashed, according to ISIS ideology.
Reporting by: Haytham Mustafa
Source: ARA News