Beirut: The Islamic State jihadist group recaptured Palmyra on Sunday after Syrian armed forces pulled out of the desert city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“Despite the ongoing air raids, ISIS retook all of Palmyra after the Syrian army withdrew south of the city,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The jihadists made a lightning-fast advance across the city after overrunning a northern neighbourhood and capturing the famed citadel to Palmyra’s west.
The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency also reported that ISIS regained “full control” of the city on Sunday after taking the citadel, which overlooks Palmyra from a strategic hilltop.
ISIS launched an offensive last week near Palmyra, a renowned Unesco World Heritage site.
It seized oil and gas fields before making a major push into the desert city on Saturday, sparking new worries for Palmyra’s remaining ancient treasures.
But a fierce Russian bombing campaign killed scores of ISIS fighters and forced others to withdraw at dawn on Sunday.
Russia had earlier claimed to have repelled an ISIS attack on Palmyra, saying it had launched 64 airstrikes overnight that killed 300 militants. But hours later, the activists said ISIS had seized a castle just outside the town that overlooks its famed Roman-era ruins....