ISIS Fighters Mostly Withdraw Amid Heavy Bombardment
The fighting didn’t last particularly long, and amid Syrian military bombardment, ISIS fighters began to withdraw en masse from the city of Palmyra, and Syria has announced that they have recaptured the city outright, for the second time in less than a year.
Syrian forces had expelled ISIS and gained control over Palmyra back in late March of 2016, and held it through most of the year, though ISIS forces eventually made their way back to the city and took it back for themselves in December. At the time, Syria’s defense was said to be limited, with more forces committed to the Aleppo battle.
Other rebel factions downplayed the significance of this most recent change of hands for Palmyra, saying it was “a game” being played by the Assad government to try to present themselves as being successful against ISIS.
While Palmyra/Tadmur is primarily an archaeological city, control of the area is of some strategic value, both because of nearby gas fields and because of its location along a key highway running through western Syria. The highway is the primary route through Deir Ezzor Province, which is ISIS’s main remaining holding.
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