Cairo, March 3 (IANS) The General Staff of the Syrian Army on Thursday said it had recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
The city, which is home to Greco-Roman ruins on the United Nations cultural body’s World Heritage list, had been the scene of heavy fighting for months, Efe news agency reported.
“Units from our armed forces, in cooperation with our allies, have recovered the city of Tadmur (Palmyra in Arabic) and the surrounding area,” said the Syrian Army command in a statement published by the state news agency, SANA.
The units led by Iranian and Russia entered the city on Thursday three months after IS took it over.
According to the army, driving the extremists from the city, whose ancient ruins are a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation world heritage site, is a serious setback for IS, which began to collapse.
Retaking the city was achieved shortly after the Syrian army took control over the archaeological citadel of Palmyra, communications hill to the west of the city and the Dedeman Hotel Palmyra to the south of the city, according to SANA.
Earlier in the day, most IS combatants withdrew from Palmyra, according to a war monitoring group.
In their retreat, the terrorists planted mines in various points of the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
SANA confirmed that army engineering units have dismantled explosives and mines planted by IS fighters in the area.
The Syrian army, along with pro-government militias and Russian aerial support, on Wednesday entered Palmyra, which has been under the control of IS since December.
The terror organisation conquered Palmyra in May 2015 and was driven from the city eight months later by Syrian troops, but regained control of the ancient Greco-Roman city in December.
The city has faced heavy damage due to the fighting and the IS-occupation.