Syrian government troops on Thursday entered the ancient city of Palmyra that was seized by Islamic State militants in May last year, according to state media reports. CNN reported that state television broadcast images purportedly showing Syrian forces entering the southwestern part of the city. A TV anchor also said that the army would soon announce that “Tadmur has been cleared of ISIS terrorists”, referring to the area around Palmyra's historic ruins. However, a monitoring group told Reuters that the fighting was underway outside the city limits.
An offensive to retake Palmyra, backed by Russian airstrikes, was launched earlier this month. The city, which was a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located strategically between Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour. The Islamic State's destruction of two 2,000-year-old temples, including the Temple of Baalshamin, was condemned worldwide. The United Nations had called it a war crime and an “immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity”.