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Syrian army has re-captured the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS, say state media and a monitoring group.

The Syrian government forces had been gaining ground for several days, supported by Russian air strikes. Military sources say the army now has “full control”.

ISIS seized the UNESCO World Heritage site and modern town in May 2015.

Images released by the Syrian military on March 26 showed helicopters and tanks firing at positions in Palmyra.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

The date of the footage could not be independently verified.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there was still gunfire in the eastern part of the city, but the bulk of the ISIS force had pulled out and retreated further east.

In a statement released on March 26, Russia’s defense ministry said the strikes hit 158 ISIS targets killing more than 100 militants.

When ISIS seized Palmyra it destroyed archaeological sites, drawing global outrage. Two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers were left in ruins.

ISIS, which has also demolished several pre-Islamic sites in neighboring Iraq, believes that such structures are idolatrous.

The prospect of Palmyra’s liberation was welcomed by UNESCO, which has described the destruction of the ancient city as a war crime.

The head of Syria’s antiquities authority, Mamoun Abdelkarim, promised to repair as much of the damage as possible as a “message against terrorism”.

Syrian army has entered the ancient town of Palmyra seized by ISIS last year, state TV has said.

According to observers, the government forces have advanced into a hotel district south-west of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Officials launched an offensive to retake the city earlier this month, backed by Russian air strikes.

Palmyra is situated in a strategically important area between Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

ISIS seized the ruins of Palmyra and the adjoining modern town in May 2015. It subsequently destroyed two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers, provoking global outrage.

Photo Flickr

Photo Flickr

The jihadist group, which has also demolished several world-renowned pre-Islamic sites in neighboring Iraq, believes that such structures are idolatrous.

UNESCO has condemned the destruction as a war crime.

State media showed warplanes flying overhead, helicopters firing missiles, and soldiers and armored vehicles approaching Palmyra.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the government forces advanced into the hotel district and reached the start of a residential area but were moving slowly because of mines planted by ISIS.

The Syrian troops were also making incursions from the northern part of the city, the AFP reported.

There were unconfirmed reports of casualties on both sides.

The Observatory said civilians began fleeing after ISIS warned them via loudspeakers to leave the city centre as fighting was drawing closer.

The advance comes after the Syrian army and allied militia took control of several hills overlooking the city earlier this week.

Recapturing Palmyra would be a significant victory for the government and Russia, which withdrew most of its forces last week after a six-month air campaign against opponents of President Bashar al-Assad that turned the tide of the five-year civil war in his favor.

Despite the reported setbacks, ISIS claimed its fighters inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing forces, according to its weekly publication Al Naba.

On March 23, ISIS issued pictures purported to show several Syrian army vehicles destroyed by its fire. However, its daily radio news bulletins have not mentioned the fighting in Palmyra in the last few days.

Syrian army has reached the outskirts of the ancient city of Palmyra, after driving back ISIS militants.

According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syrian government troops were now only 1.2 miles south of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins.

ISIS militants seized Palmyra and the adjoining modern town in May 2015.

They subsequently destroyed two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers, drawing global outrage.

ISIS, which has also demolished several world-renowned pre-Islamic sites in neighboring Iraq, believes that such structures are idolatrous.

UNESCO has condemned the destruction as a war crime.Syrian army reaches Palmyra

The Syrian Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground in Syria, told the AFP news agency that government forces were on March 23 only 1.2 miles from Palmyra’s southern outskirts and 3 miles from its western edge.

The governor of Homs province, Talal Barazi, confirmed the advance and said troops were now stationed on several hills overlooking the Greco-Roman ruins.

“There is continuous progress by the army from all directions,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Talal Barazi added that he expected “positive results” over the next few days.

Syrian government forces launched an offensive to retake Palmyra at the beginning of March, backed by heavy Russian air strikes.

Last week, the Russian military said its aircraft were flying up to 25 sorties a day over Palmyra to help liberate what President Vladimir Putin has described as a “pearl of world civilization”.

Palmyra is also situated in a strategically important area on the road between Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

ISIS militants have reportedly captured the Syrian town of Maheen, in central Homs Province, from government forces.

The fighters launched the offensive with two suicide car blasts on October 31, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Clashes were also taking place in nearby Sadad, a mostly-Christian town.

The latest development comes amid air campaigns in Syria by Russia and a US-led coalition.

ISIS has been expanding from its mainly northern and eastern strongholds towards Homs in central Syria in recent months. The group overran the town of Tadmur – home to the ancient ruins of Palmyra – and al-Qaryatain town.

The latest offensive on Maheen and Sadad brings ISIS to within 13 miles of the main road that links the Syrian capital Damascus to Homs and other cities further north.ISIS captures Maheen in Syria

The Observatory said at least 50 government soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting. The attack on Maheen began late on October 31 with twin suicide car bombs, a favored tactic for ISIS militants launching an assault.

By November 1 the Observatory reported that the whole town was reported to be in ISIS hands. An ISIS statement also said the group had taken Maheen.

Maheen is home to a large military complex and arms depot.

Meanwhile, clashes between government troops and ISIS are said to be continuing on the outskirts of Sadad. The town is home to Syria’s Assyrian Christian minority, where the ancient language of Aramaic is still spoken.

It comes amid continued Russian air strikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which Russian officials say are targeting ISIS and other “terrorist groups”.

However, activists on the ground say the strikes have been hitting moderate rebels and civilians in western areas, where ISIS have little or no presence.

They said more than 60 people were killed by Syrian army raids and Russian strikes in the northern province of Aleppo on October 31.

On October 30, more than 70 people were reported killed and hundreds more wounded in an air strike and shelling on a market in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma.

In an attempt to ward off the attacks, rebel groups in Douma are reportedly using captured soldiers and other people associated with the government as human shields.

The US-led coalition, which is also hitting ISIS targets in Syria, said on November 1 it had conducted nine air strikes across the country, including in Mar’a and al-Hawl, in the north.

This week the White House announced that fewer than 50 US special forces troops would be sent to Syria to assist anti-government rebels in fighting ISIS.

Separately on November 1, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem met UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura in Damascus to discuss ongoing international talks on the Syria conflict.

ISIS militants have executed three captives in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra by tying them to columns and blowing them up, activists say.

The identities of those reportedly killed on October 25 have yet to be given.

However, they are thought to be the first to have been killed in that way since the jihadist group seized the ruins in May.

ISIS has destroyed two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers at Palmyra, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

The Islamic State believes that such structures are idolatrous. The UN cultural agency, UNESCO, has condemned the destruction as a war crime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict in Syria, cited local sources in Palmyra as saying that on October 25 ISIS militants tied three detainees to Roman-era columns and then blew up the structures with explosives.ISIS kills captives in Palmyra

An activist from Palmyra, Khaled al-Homsi, said ISIS had yet to tell locals the identities of the three individuals or say why they had been killed.

“There was no-one there to see [the execution]. The columns were destroyed and IS has prevented anyone from heading to the site,” he told the AFP news agency.

Another activist, Mohammed al-Ayed, said ISIS was “doing this for the media attention”.

After overrunning the ruins of Palmyra and the adjoining modern town, also known as Tadmur, ISIS militants used the ancient theatre for the killing of 25 Syrian soldiers.

They also beheaded archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who looked after ruins for 40 years, after he reportedly refused to reveal where artifacts had been hidden.

Earlier this week, ISIS posted images online purportedly showing militants driving a tank over a captured soldier, who it alleged had himself driven over militants.

ISIS has blown up three funerary towers at the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdul Karim has said.

Maamoun Abdul Karim told the AFP that “the best preserved and most beautiful” had been destroyed.

Photo Flickr

Photo Flickr

The multi-storey sandstone monuments, standing outside the city walls in an area known as the Valley of the Tombs, belonged to rich Palmyrene families.

Their demolition comes only days after ISIS blew up Palmyra’s two main temples.

The group, which captured the UNESCO World Heritage site from government forces in May, has previously destroyed two Islamic shrines near Palmyra, which they described as “manifestations of polytheism”.

ISIS has destroyed part of Palmyra’s Temple of Bel, which is considered the most important temple at the ancient Syrian site, activists and witnesses say.

The extent of the damage to the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel is not clear but local residents have described being shaken by a large explosion.

The reports come a week after ISIS blew up another Palmyra temple.

ISIS seized control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears for the site.

The world-famous Greco-Roman ruins are in the desert north-east of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

“It is total destruction,” one Palmyra resident told the Associated Press news agency.

Photo Wikipedia

Photo Wikipedia

“The bricks and columns are on the ground.”

“It was an explosion the deaf would hear,” he went on, adding that only the wall of the temple remains.

The temple was dedicated to the Palmyrene gods and was one of the best preserved parts of the site.

It was several days after the initial reports of the destruction of another part of the site, the Temple of Baalshamin that ISIS itself put out pictures showing its militants blowing up the temple.

Satellite images have confirmed the destruction.

For the extremists, any representation implying the existence of a god other than theirs is sacrilege and idolatry.

Earlier this month ISIS murdered 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, the archaeologist who had looked after the Palmyra ruins for 40 years.

Khaled al-Asaad’s family told Syria’s director of antiquities that he had been beheaded.

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova praised Khaled al-Asaad, saying ISIS “murdered a great man, but they will never silence history”.

The ancient city of Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was a major tourist attraction before Syria descended into civil war.

UNESCO has condemned the deliberate destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage as a war crime.

The modern city of Palmyra – known locally as Tadmur – is situated in a strategically important area on the road between the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

ISIS has used Palmyra’s theatre to stage the public execution by children of more than 20 captured Syrian army soldiers.

The militant group has ransacked and demolished several similar sites in the parts of neighboring Iraq which they overran last year, destroying priceless ancient artifacts.

The UN estimates that over 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since the war began in 2011.

Over 4 million people have fled Syria and 7.6 million are displaced inside the country.

Palmyra’s ancient temple of Baalshamin has been destroyed by ISIS militants, Syrian officials and activists say.

Syria’s head of antiquities was quoted as saying the temple was blown up on August 23.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that it happened one month ago.

The Islamic State took control of Palmyra in May, sparking fears the group might demolish the UNESCO World Heritage site.ISIS destroyed Baalshamin temple in Palmyra

The group has destroyed several ancient sites in Iraq.

ISIS “placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baalshamin today and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple,” Syrian antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP news agency.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, residents who had fled from Palmyra also said ISIS had planted explosives at the temple, although they had done it about one month ago.

Last month, ISIS published photos of militants destroying what it said were artifacts looted at Palmyra.

Last week, it emerged that the 81-year-old archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra’s ruins for four decades had been beheaded by ISIS.

One of the world’s rarest bird – Northern Bald Ibis – may become extinct in Syria because of the capture of Palmyra by ISIS, experts say.

A relict population of three pairs of Northern Bald Ibis was discovered near Palmyra in 2002.

This migratory colony remains on the brink of extinction despite intensive protection work.

Three birds held in captivity were abandoned last week after their guards fled the fighting. Their fate is unknown.

Officials have offered a reward of $1,000 for information about the whereabouts of a fourth bird.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon said that finding the missing female, called Zenobia, is crucial.Northern Bald Ibis

Zenobia is the only bird who knows the migration routes to wintering grounds in Ethiopia and without her other captive birds cannot be released.

Then the species could go extinct in the wild in Syria, said ornithologists.

The species was thought to have been extinct in the region until seven birds were found nesting near Palmyra more than 10 years ago.

Despite being protected, their numbers dwindled to just four wild birds. This year only Zenobia made it back to the site.

Another three captive birds were being kept nearby but it is not clear if they are still safe.

The fall of Palmyra came just days after ISIS captured the major Iraqi city of Ramadi.

The capture of the UNESCO’s World Heritage site next to the modern city of Palmyra has raised international alarm.

ISIS militants have destroyed several sites in Iraq – most recently the ancient city of Nimrud, one of Iraq’s greatest archaeological treasures.

According to new reports, ISIS has taken near complete control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

Palmyra is home to some of the world’s most magnificent ruins.

There are fears that the Islamic State militants will destroy the ruins, which UNESCO has designated a World Heritage site.

Syria has admitted it has pulled government troops out of Palmyra following the ISIS advance.

ISIS militants have demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, including Hatra and Nimrud.

Syrian state media said pro-government forces had been pulled out of Tadmur, the modern settlement on Palmyra, after “assuring the evacuation” of most of its inhabitants.

Photo UNESCO

Photo UNESCO

Hundreds of Palmyra’s statues have been moved to safety but large monuments from the ancient parts of the city could not be moved.

Rising out of the desert, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, according to UNESCO.

The site, most of which dates back to the 1st and 2nd Century when the region was under Roman rule, is dominated by a grand, colonnaded street.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova said she was “deeply concerned” by the situation.

“The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East, and its civilian population,” Irina Bokova said in a statement.

Palmyra is situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour, and is close to gas fields.

A United States-led coalition has carried out air strikes on the jihadist group’s positions since September 2014. However, it says it does not co-ordinate its actions with the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, the US said it was sending 1,000 anti-tank missiles to the Iraqi government following the fall of Ramadi to ISIS.

A third of Syrian town Tadmur, next to Palmyra, one of the Middle East’s greatest archaeological sites, has been captured by ISIS.

The Islamic State militants had overrun much of the north of Tadmur after fierce clashes with government forces, activists say.

Syria’s head of antiquities Maamoun Abdul Karim said the world had a responsibility to save Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hundreds of statues had been moved to safety, but large monuments could not be moved, Maamoun Abdul Karim warned.Palmyra ISIS

ISIS militants have ransacked and demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, including Hatra and Nimrud, leading to fears that it might attempt to damage or destroy Palmyra.

On May 20, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a third of Tadmur had been taken by ISIS after battles with government soldiers and allied militiamen.

Rising out of the desert and flanked by an oasis, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world, according to UNESCO.

The site, most of which dates back to the 1st to the 2nd Century when the region was under Roman rule, is dominated by a grand, colonnaded street.

Palmyra and Tadmur are situated in a strategically important area on the road between the capital, Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour, and close to gas fields.