Sunday, March 27, 2016

Syrian Forces Liberate Palmyra

Syrian Forces Liberate Palmyra

by Stephen Lendman

Aided by Russian air power, Syrian forces liberated the strategic city of Palmyra, called the pearl of the Syrian desert, a UNESCO world heritage site, held by US-supported ISIS fighters since last May.

A Syrian military source announced the victory, saying “Palmyra city is now fully cleared of ISIS terrorists after the army established complete control over all its (territory), including the archeological site and airport.”

Efforts are underway to remove mines and other explosive devices. A government offensive to liberate the city began on March 7. It was accomplished successfully.

Palmyra is located on a highway between Damascus and Deir Ezzor. Its capture enables Syrian forces to advance to Raqqa, ISIS’ declared Syria capital, about 160 km east of Aleppo.

Liberating it along with Deir Ezzor appears just a matter of time. Syrian forces advanced to Qariatin, southwest of Palmyra, infested with ISIS fighters. Its outskirts were taken.

The Russian Center for the Syrian Ceasefire said its warplanes flew 40 sorties over the area in the past 24 hours against 158 ISIS targets, killing scores, destroying heavy weapons, munitions and vehicles.

Since taking control of Palmyra last May, ISIS destroyed the ancient fortress of Emir Fakhr-al-Don, the city’s Arch of Triumph, its Baalshamin and Ba’al temples - along with looting ancient artifacts from the Palmyra Museum and Necropolis.

A Syrian military spokesman called retaking the city the beginning of ISIS’ collapse. Months of Russian airstrikes weakened its forces considerably.

Syria’s antiquities head, Mamoun Abdelkarim, said efforts will be made to restore historic sites. “We will rebuild them with the stones that remain and with the remaining columns…bringing life back to Palmyra,” he said.

UNESCO’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit head Giovanni Boccardi expressed concern about about the extent of damage inflicted, saying an assessment on the ground is needed once security conditions permit to determine what can be restored.

Liberating Palmyra constitutes a major Syrian strategic victory, a significant ISIS setback, “a launchpad to expand military operations” against areas it still controls, according to the general in charge of operations.

He promised to “tighten the noose on the terrorist group and cut their supply routes” ahead of retaking Raqqa and Dier Ezzor, strongholds under its control.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

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