03:21 GMT +319 October 2019
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    Syrian army soldiers stand on the ruins of the Temple of Bel in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate (File)

    Just a Question of Time: Syrian Army Fights Daesh for Re-Liberation of Palmyra

    © AP Photo / Omar Sanadiki
    Middle East
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    The Syrian Army, supported by pro-government militia forces, are cleansing the western areas of the ancient city of Palmyra of Daesh terrorists, RIA Novosti reported, referring to the Lebanese news network al-Mayadeen.

    Daesh terrorists are abandoning their positions in western areas of the city, where the Syrian Army, backed by the country's National Defense Forces, continues to recover territory, the Lebanese news network al-Mayadeen reported.

    The Syrian newspaper al-Watan, for its part, claimed that the Syrian troops are already located no more than one kilometer from the city center.

    Earlier, RIA Novosti quoted a source in the Syrian Army as saying that Palmyra may be completely cleared of the terrorist groups in less than a week.

    Syria considers taking Palmyra tactically vital in advancing toward the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria.

    Daesh seized Palmyra, once capital of the Palmyrene Empire and one of the richest cities in antiquity, in May 2015.

    Terrorists destroyed a number of culturally and historically irreplaceable UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Arch of Triumph, the Temple of Baalshamin and the Temple of Bel.

    Syrian government army and militia fight for Palmyra
    © Sputnik / Mikhail Voskresenskiy
    Syrian government army and militia fight for Palmyra

    Jihadists also looted the national museum and Palmyra's famous necropolis.

    In March 2016, the Syrian Army, supported by a group of Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, managed to liberate Palmyra. Russian specialists demined the historic center as well as residential areas of the city.

    Russian historians and renovators visited Palmyra in early July 2016 and prepared a report assessing the condition of the damaged sites and cost of the renovation works.

    However, Palmyra was recaptured by Daesh in December 2016, after the government had shifted its focus to retaking Aleppo. The terror group' gains in the historic city prompted the Syrian Army to launch an offensive in January 2017 in order to retake it once again.

    At the time, the army was tasked with driving Daesh out of the territory near Palmyra, where a numger of oil fields were located. About 10,000 soldiers took part in the offensive, including Syria's  elite special forces unit, the Desert Hawks.

    View of Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, known as Palmyra citadel, on a hilltop in the ancient city of Palmyra (File)
    © AFP 2019 / JOSEPH EID
    View of Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle, known as Palmyra citadel, on a hilltop in the ancient city of Palmyra (File)

    Notably, Daesh managed to recapture the ancient city after about 5,000 terrorists were moved to Palmyra from the cities of Raqqa, Mosul and Deir ez-Zor – something that Syrian President Bashar Assad blamed on the US-led coalition.

    In a December 2016 interview with RT, Assad said that it was the US-led coalition which controlled the main routes of approach to Palmyra and that the coalition turned a blind eye to Daesh's redeployment to the city.

    Syrian army soldiers drive past the Arch of Triumph in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria. (File)
    © REUTERS / Omar Sanadiki
    Syrian army soldiers drive past the Arch of Triumph in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria. (File)

    "The US-led alliance either ignored Daesh's redeployment or pushed the terrorists to advance on Palmyra. The matter is that Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor are located just a few hundred kilometers away from Palmyra and the jihadists could advance under the supervision of US satellites, US drones and with the assistance of Americans," Assad pointed out.

    Meanwhile, a source said that the Syrian Army "has regained control over the citadel in Palmyra and the mountain range to the southwest of the city."

    The information came after an informed source on the ground told Sputnik that the Syrian government troops had secured control over a strategic traffic interchange at the southern entrance to Palmyra.

    "Our spearhead unit entrenched on the strategic triangle about an hour ago. You can safely say that there remains a last mountain range and citadel to be liberated," the source said.

    Last week, the Syrian army liberated a strategic road conjunction three miles away from Palmyra. The area has been used as a bridgehead to free the adjacent heights from militants.

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