As heavy fighting continues in ISIS’ last Iraqi stronghold in Mosul, the terrorist group’s forces retook the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.
The recapture of Palmyra comes just a few months after Syrian forces, aided by Russia and Hezbollah, took the city back from ISIS forces that captured the city in May 2015.
The US-led coalition has also continued to target ISIS and its weaponry around the historic city. In 10 airstrikes on December 15, coalition bombers targeted 14 tanks, artillery systems, buildings, and vehicles northeast of the city along a highway. You can see a clip below.
The tanks and other equipment destroyed in the strikes had been captured by ISIS when the group advanced on Tiyas military airfield near Palmyra, Operation Inherent Resolve officials said a release. The daylight operation involved 16 coalition aircraft, using 22 bombs or other munitions to go after 22 targets.
Despite facing pressure in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, ISIS has reportedly be preparing for more offensive operations. The group’s success in retaking Palmyra suggests that the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad are overstretched and having difficulty holding territory.
- Reuters/Omar Sanadiki
“Even with all the Russian and Iranian support, and all the foreign fighters that have joined their side, the regime still struggles to gain additional territory in opposition strongholds while maintaining what they already have,” Noah Bonsey, the senior analyst for Syria at the International Crisis Group, told Time.
Days after ISIS surged into Palmyra, the Syrian army began redeploying troops from the area around Aleppo, in northwestern Syria, including some units that retook the city from ISIS earlier this year.
It was reported this week that Syrian government forces had halted ISIS’ advance west of Palmyra.
US air forces and the Russian forces assisting the Assad regime usually cover different areas of the country, with Russian aircraft typically scouring the skies over Palmyra, according to USA Today.
The commander of the US-led coalition, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said on Wednesday that the coalition would target ISIS near the city if Russians did not do so first.
- Thomson Reuters
The US has also been critical of Russia and Syria for losing control of Palmyra and the weaponry and equipment around the ancient city, saying Moscow and Damascus have been focused on attacking Aleppo.
“(Russia) has only had one operational gain on the ground inside of Syria against ISIL. It has had that – that gain rolled back,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“In fact, the threat that is posed by ISIL is now worse because of Russia’s failed strategy inside of Syria, because ISIL didn’t just retake Palmyra, they retook Palmyra and all of the military equipment that the Assad regime, backed by Russia, had moved in there.”