ISIL ‘recaptures’ Palmyra from Syrian forces

More than 4,000 fighters converge on ancient city, forcing government troops to retreat south in reversal of fortunes.

Before the war some 150,000 tourists a year visited Palmyra [AFP]

ISIL has recaptured the Syrian city of Palmyra after thousands of its fighters launched a multi-pronged assault on the ancient city, according to reports.

The Russian Monitoring Centre in Syria said on Sunday that ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, had drawn on “significant forces” from its strongholds in nearby Raqqa and Deir Az-zor, with more than 4,000 fighters, backed by tanks, attacking the city.

Russia, Syria’s ally, had launched a flurry of air strikes overnight that reportedly killed 300 ISIL fighters and forced the group to retreat.

However, later on Sunday, ISIL, also known as ISIS, claimed to be in full control of Palmyra via Amaq, a news agency that supports the group, with government troops forced to retreat to the south of the city.

Talal al-Barazi, the governor of Homs, confirmed to Syrian state TV that ISIL had captured Palmyra, adding that the army was using all of its means to regain control.

ISIL captured Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, in May last year, before losing the city 10 months later to much international fanfare.

During that time, it destroyed some ancient sites and artefacts while using others to stage mass executions.

String of defeats

ISIL also destroyed the infamous Tadmur prison, where thousands of government opponents were reported to have been tortured.

ISIL has suffered a string of defeats in both Syria and Iraq in recent months, losing several towns and cities it had captured in 2014.

According to defence analysts at the think tank IHS Jane, ISIL lost about 12 percent of its territory in 2016, and about 14 percent in 2015.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies