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Syrian forces capture Palmyra city from ISIS militants

Palmyra recaptured from ISIS on Sunday, months after the city fell to the Islamic extremist group

Kimberly Hutcherson and Faith Karimi report for CNN: fierce fighting drives ISIS extremists away from the ancient city.

Local TV station recounted: Syrian army along with pro-government militias and backed by Russian air support took possession of the town and cast out the ISIS forces. Since the moment when ISIS took control of the city in May, the extremist organization destroyed several ancient temples and other historical sites, leaving the city in ruins.

“The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism,” state television quoted Assad as telling a visiting French delegation.

Hutcherson and Karimi continue: “[l]ast week, the army recaptured Palmyra Castle from ISIS and destroyed hideouts, sending militants fleeing in various parts of the city. Syria's army marched toward the city, dismantling explosives left behind by the terror group. By Sunday, the army had seized the entire city.”

The Syrian army’s seizure came after a months-long rampage of violent destruction: ISIS militants intentionally bombed and destroyed historical memorials, showing its disdain to the people and their history.

Syrian officials announced that over several months ISIS fighters destroyed two Muslim holy sites: a 500-year-old shrine and a tomb where a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed's cousin was reportedly buried. Moreover, in the next two months, they destroyed, even more, artefacts, including the 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph and the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin. ISIS also beheaded the antiquities expert who looked after the ruins.

UN’s agency that is responsible for controlling world’s most important natural and cultural sites, UNESCO, claimed that those destructions might be equated to a war crime. The agency added that due to demolitions an important cultural layer which comprised Greek, Roman and Persian influences on the art and architecture.

Despite the terrible damage they have caused, ISIS fighters remain unapologetic about its devastation of the ancient city; they even published pictures that detail the process of demolition.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, pledged that the world body will review the damage and punish those who are responsible for the destruction.

"For one year, Palmyra has been a symbol of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East," Bokova said. "As soon as security conditions allow, UNESCO is ready to go to Palmyra with those responsible for Syrian antiquities on a mission to evaluate damage."

“After news that Syrian troops were poised to retake Palmyra last week, ISIS released a video claiming it controls the city. It shows the city's deserted streets and cuts to an ISIS militant sitting on a tank, saying the group will defeat any forces that enter the city. The video shows a panoramic shot of Palmyra's ruined historical site,” conclude Karimi and Hutcherson.

However, no evidence was obtained to verify the authenticity of the video.

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Robert Fisk for the Independent, (“Why is David Cameron so silent on the recapture of Palmyra from the clutches of Isis?”) wonders why US and UK did not congratulate Syria for the liberation of such a monumental historical site. Fisk is known to be critical of both the Assad government and the rebels, but it seems that for him enough is enough and the Syrian army are far better than the alternative. Fisk says that the Syrian army will determine the future of Syria and should liberate Raqaa too. But what’s more, Fisk more than hints that the US has no real interest of destroying ISIS.
Robert Fisk writes: “I could not help but smile when I read that the US command claimed two air strikes against Isis around Palmyra in the days leading up to its recapture by the regime. That really did tell you all you needed to know about the American "war on terror". They wanted to destroy Isis, but not that much.”
With the English tendency for understatement and careful phrasing, I take that to mean: actually, if the US really wanted to destroy ISIS, would have it not done so already? Or maybe the US has an interest in ISIS staying there for the war that was never meant to be won, just as it created chaos in Iraq and Libya, allowing jihadists to take over? How many times can one take the same action and say it was a mistake?

Read more

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