Islamic State militants launch new offensive in Palmyra, hit Syrian army base

HOMS – Militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Wednesday attacked headquarters of the Syrian army forces in the vicinity of the ancient Palmyra city in Homs province, killing and wounding dozens of Syrian soldiers, activists reported.

ISIS militants hit an army base near the grain silos of Palmyra using mortar shells.

“The bombardment of the base was followed by sporadic clashes between ISIS fighters and the Syrian regime’s army forces, where heavy and light weapons were used. The death toll among the army troops reached 17, and over 20 others were injured,” media activist Adil al-Bakri told ARA News in Palmyra.

On the other hand, eight ISIS militants were reported dead and at least 10 others were injured in the clashes on Wednesday.

In the meantime, pro-regime Russian warplanes bombed ISIS fighting positions and destroyed at least two ISIS vehicles, according to a Syrian army officer.

This comes just a few days after ISIS militants captured three security checkpoints from the Syrian army east of Palmyra. According to military sources and local activists, ISIS renewed its attacks on the pro-regime forces in Palmyra on Saturday, marking the resumption of violence to the ancient city which was regained by Syrian army forces –supported by a Russian air cover– from ISIS militants in March.

“ISIS fighters launched a surprise attack on Syrian army checkpoints in eastern Palmyra. The group has used mortar fire and heavy weapons in the attack, forcing the regime troops to evacuate at least three security checkpoints,” media activist Amro al-Hussain told ARA News in Palmyra, adding that the Syrian army forces withdrew towards their headquarters inside the city of Palmyra, after seven of their soldiers were killed and more than 15 others were wounded in the offensive.

ISIS jihadis have reportedly advanced in the Sawami area in Palmyra suburbs, pushing the Syrian army back towards the city centre.

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
Palmyra clashes. File photo

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