19:30 GMT +323 March 2019
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    View of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra

    Gaining Ground: Syrian Soldiers Tear Down Daesh Flag From Palmyra Castle

    © AFP 2019 / Joseph EID
    Middle East
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    Syrian Army troops tore down the flag of the Daesh terrorist group from the medieval castle on a hill in Palmyra, RIA Novosti reported on Saturday.

    A joint military operation by the government forces, backed by popular defense units, saw the old citadel on the Syriatel hill liberated from Daesh terrorists who were forced to retreat.

    However, all attempts to raise the Syrian flag over the citadel have thus far been prevented by heavy tank, anti-aircraft and mortar fire by the militants, RIA reported.

    On Saturday, fierce fighting resumed in almost all parts of Palmyra, with the exception of the city’s historical district. Militiamen from the Desert Falcons unit have so far been able to gain a foothold in the residential quarter beneath the citadel.

    In another part of the city the government forces were advancing towards a local military airfield.

    “The fighters, who remain in the city, are apparently firing to cover the retreat. We don’t know for sure whether their retreat continues or they have decided to dig in their heels,” unit commander Abu Hamza told RIA.

    On Thursday, militia units took control of the Semiramis hotel complex and adjoining buildings, and on Friday they retook the hill the medieval castle stands on.

    The capture of Palmyra and further eastward advances into Deir ez-Zor would mark the most significant Syrian government gain against Daesh since the start of Russia's military intervention last September.

    The 13th-century Palmyra Castle, also known as Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.


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