Syrian success in Palmyra invigorates campaign against IS

Kettlemag Kirstie Keate IS driven out of Palmyra
Written by kirstiekeate

The Syrian army has declared Palmyra will be a ‘launchpad’ for operations against IS following regaining control of the ancient city.

Reacquiring control of the city is thought to be one of the biggest gains against IS since its declaring of a caliphate across part of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Although the city is mostly clear of IS, some militia still remain in the city, and according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, clashes are still continuing in the North and North-East.

According to Syrian state media, the area surrounding the military airport in Palmyra has been cleared of IS fighters and the airport is now open.

The city was retaken by Syrian government forces with assistance from Russian airstrikes. Russia had stated it had mostly withdrawn forces from the conflict, although it continued airstrikes over Palmyra to assist the Syrian government army. Russia has also pledged to assist in the removal of landmines in the area.

Syrian President Assad has spoken to Moscow thanking them for their support in the operation.

Meanwhile chief of Syrian antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, has told a number of news agencies that the damage was not as bad as they had been expecting, pledging to restore monuments that had been damaged.


Key facts

  • Palmyra is home to some of the most extensive ruins of the Roman empire, which was once one of the important cultural centres of the ancient world, but Neolithic stone tools found there date human settlement back to 7,500BC.
  • Romans inhabited Palmyra from the first century AD.
  • IS destroyed many of its ancient temples primarily because it regards ancient statues as idolatrous, and contrary to Islam, but by removing and selling some of the artefacts on the black market, they are also able to raise vital funds for the group.
  • Renowned archeologist Khaled al-Asaad, who studied and looked after the ruins for 40 years, was captured last year and and held hostage for a month by IS in their quest to find historic artefacts. He was killed when he refused to give the locations. 
  • It was declared a world heritage site by Unesco, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, who describe it as an, “oasis in the Syrian desert”