URGENT: Syrian forces enter Palmyra: TV
Syrian armed forces have entered Palmyra after fierce clashes with Daesh terrorists controlling the ancient city since last year, state media say.
On Thursday, Syrian state television said government troops, backed by army air power, drove back Daesh militants and reached the “heart” of the city.
Army forces have retaken control of Palmyra’s northern hotel district as well as the farms situated west of the city.
Reports said earlier in the day that army soldiers were on the edge of Palmyra, liberating the outskirts of the city, located in the western province of Homs.
In an interview with state-run Ikhbariya new channel, a Syrian soldier on the ground said the armed unity would press forward beyond Palmyra.
“We say to those gunmen, we are advancing to Palmyra, and to what’s beyond Palmyra, and God willing to Raqqah,” a northern city which serves as the main Daesh stronghold in Syria.
Homs Governor Talal Barazi told The Associated Press that Syrian forces was approaching the city from three directions.
“We might witness in the next 48 hours an overwhelming victory in Palmyra,” Barazi said, adding that “the army is advancing in a precise and organized way to protect what is possible of monuments and archaeological sites.”
Last May, Daesh Takfiris captured the ruins of Palymra, a UNESCO heritage site, and the adjacent modern city, destroying ancient monuments there, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph.
The extremist militants also killed Khaled al-Asaad, who looked after ancient ruins of Palmyra for 40 years.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 200 Daesh terrorists have been killed since the Syrian army began the military campaign to liberate Palmyra more than two weeks ago.
Palmyra’s liberation would deal a significant blow to Daesh terrorists, who have been using the city as a road to the mostly Daesh-held province of Deir al-Zawr in Syria’s east.
In recent months, Syrian army, backed by Russian air force, has been making major gains against the Takfiri groups, liberating several strategic areas from their grip, particularly in the strategic northern province of Aleppo.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed that the army would cleanse the entire country of terrorist groups.