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Syrian army 'recaptures' ancient city of Palmyra

Syrian army 'recaptures' ancient city of Palmyra

Syria

The Syrian army has taken full control of the ancient city of Palmyra, a military source told AFP on Sunday.

The source said the army had driven out Islamic State fighters who had held the city for almost a year.

“After a night of violent battle, the army now fully controls the city of Palmyra, including the ancient part and residential site. They (the jihadists) have withdrawn,” the source said.

According to the source, the Islamic State fighters retreated to Sokhné, Raqa and Deir Ezzor, their strongholds in the north and east of Syria.

He also said the army’s engineering unit are defusing dozens of bombs and mines set up by the jihadists within the ancient city which contains treasures partially destroyed by the group.

Countless cultural relics have been destroyed in the city in the war between the Syrian government forces and the Islamic State.

Pro-Syrian regime forces backed by Russian fighter jets launched an offensive on March 7 to reclaim the city which was captured by the extremist group in May 2015.

Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its Roman-era ruins and strategic significance in battles.

It was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. Its storied ruins include more than 1,000 columns, a Roman aqueduct and a necropolis of more than 500 tombs.

Since the IS took the city last May, it launched repeated mass destruction of the treasured ruins. Ancient temples and looted relics dating back thousands of years have been blown up.

Most parts of the hilltop citadel, namely the Fakhredin al Maany, which was built in the 13th century overlooking the ancient ruins of Palmyra has been broken to pieces during the attacks from both sides.

UNESCO has described the carnage as “an intolerable crime against civilization.”

AFP/Reuters

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