Syrian military forces are engaged in heavy clashes with Takfiri Daesh terrorists in the suburbs of the central city of Palmyra, which was liberated from the extremists several weeks ago.
Syria’s state news agency SANA cited a military official as saying that the Syrian air force had carried out raids against Daesh elements around the Shaer gas field, northwest of Palmyra, on Wednesday. The terrorists captured the gas field last week.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group, said Daesh cut the main road from the city of Homs to Palmyra on Tuesday. Syrian state media, however, denied the allegation.
Daesh-affiliated sources said the militants took control of a deserted but strategic rocket-launching site close to the T4 air base, less than 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Palmyra.
The sources also said Daesh seized two government checkpoints near the air base and downed an army helicopter. The SOHR echoed the claim about the downing of the copter, saying that the fate of its crew remains unclear.
Daesh captured the ruins of Palymra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the adjacent modern city in May 2015, destroying ancient monuments there, including the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the iconic Arch of Triumph.
The Syrian army, backed by volunteer forces and Russian air cover, wrested back control of Palmyra on March 27 following four weeks of military operations against Daesh.
Both sides have been fighting each other in the desert around Palmyra since the terror group was ousted from the city.
Also on Wednesday, Moscow announced that a Russian soldier, identified as Anton Yerygin, had died in Syria. He is the ninth Russian casualty since September 30, 2015, when Moscow began strikes against terrorist groups in Syria upon a request from Damascus.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.