Syrian troops backed by Russian jets on 2 March 2017 recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, the army and Iranian-backed militia advanced inside Palmyra on 2nd March. They recaptured the historic city after ISIS withdrew from the city.
The observatory in its report said ISIS militants retreated to areas in the East and the government forces conducted combining operations to clear mines on the day.
Highlights of IS militants presence in Palmyra
• IS militants mined several areas before withdrawing completely.
• During Syria's six-year civil war, the oasis city has traded hands several times and become a symbol of the meaningless destruction of cultural heritage in areas under ISIS control.
• Palmyra was first seized by the militant group in May 2015. After capturing the city, UNESCO world heritage site was destroyed systematically. The city was listed on UNESCO’s world heritage site for hosting numerous ancient monuments and temples.
• Later in March 2016, the militant group was driven out from the city but was able to recapture it in December 2016 when the Syrian government focused on recapturing rebel-held East Aleppo.
Reports say the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin of Palmyra's recapture.
Loss of Palmyra is being considered as the latest blow to the militant group, ISIS because in recent past the group had suffered losses in its two main strongholds, namely Raqa (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq). It lost these two areas after facing assaults by forces backed by the US-led coalition. Early in 2014, the militant/jihadist group took over swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.
Site of Palmyra
The city of Palmyra, known as an oasis in the Syrian Desert, was a house of monumental ruins of the Neolithic period, like the Temple of Ba'al, the Agora, Diocletian's Camp, Theatre and other temples, before it was captured by ISIS. Their entrance to the city led to the destruction of several structures and loot of the heritage site just for sale in the black market.
Before the entrance of ISIS, the city was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.
The city was first mentioned in the archives of Mari in the 2nd millennium BC. It was established as a caravan oasis under the Roman control in the mid-first century AD as part of the Roman province of Syria. With time, the city became an important trade route of Asia as it linked China, India and Persia with the Roman Empire.
Discovery of the ruined city by travellers in the 17th and 18th centuries resulted in its subsequent influence on architectural styles.