Beirut (Lebanon): Jihadist fighters of the Islamic State group on Saturday re-entered Syria’s famed ancient desert city of Palmyra from which they were driven out eight months ago, a monitor said.
“IS entered Palmyra on Saturday and now occupies its northwest. There is also fighting with the army in the city centre,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The jihadists began an offensive in recent days near the town which is on UNESCO’s world heritage list.
In May last year, IS seized several towns in Homs province including Palmyra, where they caused extensive damage to many of its ancient sites.
They were ousted from Palmyra in March by Syrian regime forces backed by Russia.
Meanwhile, the Turkish army and its allies entered the Islamic State group’s bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“They entered Al-Bab from the northwest after violent clashes with the jihadists as Turkish artillery bombarded the town,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Heavy fighting was ongoing late Saturday in the town near the Turkish border, he said, which has been under IS control since 2014.
Al-Bab is the last bastion IS has in northern Aleppo province.
In August, Turkish troops entered northern Syria in an unprecedented operation Ankara said targeted both IS and Kurdish fighters.
Turkish media said on Friday it was sending 300 commandos to reinforce its military campaign inside Syria.
The offensive comes as a US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance presses an offensive on IS’s de facto Syrian capital of Raqa southeast of Al-Bab.