Syrian troops retake ancient Palmyra from Daesh control

Syrian troops retake ancient  Palmyra from Daesh control
Updated 27 March 2016

Syrian troops retake ancient Palmyra from Daesh control

Syrian troops retake ancient  Palmyra from Daesh control

DAMASCUS: Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes drove Daesh fighters from Palmyra on Sunday, ending the group’s 10-month reign of terror over a town whose famed 2,000-year-old ruins once drew tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Government forces had been on the offensive for nearly three weeks to try to retake the central town, known among Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert,” which fell to the extremists last May. Their advance marks the latest in a series of setbacks for Daesh, which has come under mounting pressure on several fronts in Iraq and Syria in recent months.
In comments reported on state TV, President Bashar Assad described the Palmyra operation as a “significant achievement” offering “new evidence of the effectiveness of the strategy espoused by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism.”
Gen. Ali Mayhoub announced on the station that that the fall of Palmyra “directs a fatal blow to Daesh, undermines the morale of its mercenaries, and ushers in the start of its defeat and retreat.” He said it lays the ground for further advances toward Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, and Deir el-Zour, an eastern city it largely controls.
Troops in Palmyra are now dismantling explosive booby traps planted by Daesh, the station reported. State TV and a Britain-based monitoring group later reported that troops captured a military airport to the east.
The advance marks a strategic and symbolic victory for the government, which has sought to portray itself as a bulwark against terrorism. The town was an important juncture on a Daesh supply line connecting its territory in central and northern Syria to the Anbar province in Iraq, where the group also holds territory.
Daesh drove government forces from Palmyra in a matter of days last May and later demolished some of the best-known monuments in its UNESCO world heritage site, including two large temples dating back more than 1,800 years and a Roman triumphal archway.
State TV showed the rubble left over from the destruction of the Temple of Bel as well as the damaged archway, the supports of which were still standing. It said a statue of Zenobia, the 3rd century queen who ruled an independent state from Palmyra and figures strongly in Syrian lore, was missing. Many of the Roman colonnades, however, were still standing.
Artefacts inside the city’s museum also appeared heavily damaged on state TV. A sculpture of the Greek goddess Athena was shown decapitated, and the museum’s basement appeared to have been dynamited, the hall littered with broken statues.