With Peace Restored in Post-Daesh Palmyra, What’s Next for the Syrian Army?

© REUTERS / Omar SanadikiA Syrian national flag flutters as the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra are seen in the background, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016.
A Syrian national flag flutters as the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra are seen in the background, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. - Sputnik International
The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which for a long time was under the control of Daesh terrorists, is finally celebrating its liberation. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the civil airport, a real battle unfolds.

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Sputnik correspondent Mikhail Alaeddin, while at the Palmyra airport along with a group of Syrian Special Forces, witnessed an ongoing operation aimed at eliminating the positions of terrorists and advancing deeper into the desert.

Free tour of the airport

According to Alaeddin, the Palmyra airport is located literally just a kilometer away from town. The commander of the special squad received orders to arrive at the airfield to assess the situation.

“The direct road from Palmyra to the airport has not yet been cleared, so we'll go on a detour through the desert,” the commander explained to the correspondent as he sat behind the wheel of the car leading the convoy.

The airport area resembles a field which has been completely flattened by concrete. Almost all of the buildings have been demolished. Only a few concrete hangars, which were once used for the military aircraft located in the northern part of the airport, remain.

At present, the fortified structures serve either as shelters for the soldiers of the Syrian Arab army, or as a graveyard for the heavy equipment confiscated from terrorists.

The Syrian army managed to repel the terrorists from the airport a couple of days ago, but realizing the strategic significance of the facility, the terrorists had once again attacked the positions of the Syrian army and tried to occupy the airport.

It was then that the aviation and artillery came to the rescue. The terrorists had approached the airport at night and tried to storm it. However, the soldiers of the special purpose group supported the infantry at the front line and kicked back the terrorists.

The loss of the airport could have jeopardized the security of Palmyra once again.

Liberation is sweet

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Meanwhile, in Palmyra itself, the battle that was raging near the airport was not audible. In the historical part of the city, more than a hundred people had gathered.
High-ranking military personnel were welcomed by an aerobatic performance by the Syrian Air Force.

The Minister of Defense of Syria expressed gratitude to Russia and the Russian military for helping in the liberation of Palmyra.

Unfortunately, the solemn melody from the amphitheater where national music was being played by girls from the Homs music school was not heard at the airport.

Silence of the night

After the shift ended the military personnel left the airport together with the correspondent. On their way back they passed some districts where Daesh flags could still be seen on buildings and some houses.

“This is normal; this quarter has not yet been cleared, so no one has yet climbed onto the roof of the hotel. As soon as it has been cleared, we will hang the Syrian flag and burn this one,” the senior member of the group told Alaeddin.

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As the night falls the army continues its offensive towards the airport to drive the terrorists some twelve kilometers into the desert, as was done in the direction of the city of Sukhn in the northwest.

An offensive is also rising in the west, where the army is liberating oil and gas fields. At the same time, terrorists are being defeated in the east of the province of Aleppo, where the army is moving towards the province of Raqqa.

Matter of honor

Ensuring the security of Palmyra and advancing to the north and north-west of the ancient city is considered a matter of honor amongst the Syrian army, according to the correspondent.

On Thursday, the Syrian army, backed by the Russian military aircraft operating in Syria, regained control over Palmyra.

Daesh first captured Palmyra in May 2015. In the ten months that followed, the brutal group, notorious for destroying pre-Islamic cultural heritage sites, leveled the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Monumental Arch and several tomb towers. Some of the priceless artifacts on display at a local museum were smashed or defaced.

The Syrian Arab Army, assisted by Russian warplanes and its allies, took control of Palmyra on March 27, 2016, but lost it on December 11. Daesh then destroyed a tetrapylon and part of a Roman theater in the ancient city, using it to carry out mass executions.

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