Syrian army retakes Palmyra from Islamic State

Government forces capture ancient city from Isis militants for the second time in a year

Smoke billows in the background as Syrian forces try to retake the ancient city of Palmyra, from Islamic State. Photograph: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian army said on Thursday it had recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (Isis) for the second time in a year, with help from allied forces and Russian warplanes.

Isis retook Palmyra in a surprise advance in December, after having been driven out eight months before.

“With backing from the Syrian and Russian air forces, units of our armed forces recaptured the city of Palmyra, in co-operation with the allies,” the military said in a statement.

The army and Iranian-backed militia advanced inside Palmyra on Thursday as Isis withdrew completely, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said.


Isis militants retreated to areas in the east, the Observatory reported.

First occupation

During Isis’s first occupation of Palmyra, which ended in March, the ultra-hardline jihadist group destroyed some of the city’s priceless archaeological heritage.

The group is also believed to have razed other parts of the historical ruins since regaining control in December.

Isis is on the back foot in Syria after losing territory in the north to an alliance of US-backed, Kurdish-led militias, and to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels.

The Syrian army is also fighting Isis in the area east of Aleppo and in the city of Deir al-Zor, where it controls an enclave that is besieged by the jihadist group.