Syrian government forces push IS out of ancient Palmyra

Recapturing the town would be seen as a significant victory. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Recapturing the town would be seen as a significant victory. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Syrian government forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, have pushed into the ancient town of Palmyra, which has been held by the Islamic State group since May, state TV has reported.

The advance came after the troops managed this week to capture several hills and high ground around the town, famed for its priceless archaeological site and Roman ruins. Syrian troops have been on the offensive for days in an attempt to capture the town.

Broadcast footage of a reporter, embedded with the Syrian military, shows him speaking live from the entrance of Palmyra and saying that as of midday on Thursday, the fighting was concentrated near the archaeological site on the southwestern edge of the town.

Cracks of gunfire and explosions echoed as the reporter spoke.

An unnamed Syrian soldier told the station he had one message for the Islamic State group: “You will be crushed under the feet of the Syrian Arab army.”

Recapturing the town, a Unesco world heritage site, would be a significant victory for Syria’s army and its Russian allies.

Russia withdrew most of its forces and aircraft from Syria last week after a months-long bombing campaign that succeeded in turning the tide of the war again in president Bashar Assad’s favour.

Turkey-based activist Osama al-Khatib, who is originally from Palmyra, denied that Syrian troops had entered the town.

He said they were still on the edge of Palmyra and that the video shows an area about five kilometres (three miles) from Palmyra.