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NOW

ISIS calls on Palmyra
residents to flee town

Pro-regime forces have continued their advances around the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Palmyra. (AFP)

BEIRUT – ISIS has called on residents of Palmyra to flee the town as pro-regime forces continue their advances into the UNESCO World Heritage site seized by the jihadist group in May 2015.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday morning that ISIS members issued a call across loudspeakers for the remaining residents of the town to “leave as a result of the fighting reaching the outskirts of the city.”

 

The monitoring NGO tracking developments in the war-torn country added that “fierce clashes resumed in the morning at the southern and southwestern entrances of Palmyra between ISIS one side and regime forces and allied militias on the other.”

 

“This comes after the clashes stopped for a number of hours after midnight.”

 

SOHR went into details on the location of the battles, explaining that fighting was raging in the Palmyra Groves directly south of the archeological complex of ancient ruins as well as in the Mutaqaadin area to the west of the city.

 

“Russian and Syrian warplanes are conducting heavy airstrikes in the locations where the fighting is raging,” the NGO added.

 

A video released March 23 by Syrian state media on recent regime advances around Palmyra. (YouTube/SANA)

 

Pro-regime media has touted the latest advances, which comes two weeks after government forces started a major offensive to retake the heritage city, which hosts fabled Hellenistic and Roman era ruins as well as a 13th century Mamluk fortress.

 

Al-Ikhbariya television on Wednesday evening quoted a soldier as saying that “we are 850 meters from Palmyra city.”

 

Meanwhile, Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar—which has an editorial line in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—cited field sources as saying the pro-regime forces were 1 kilometer away from the city.

 

The sources told the newspaper that Syrian troops were only “hours” away from reaching the Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle that overlooks western stretches of Palmyra.

 

Al-Akhbar also quoted the field sources as saying they “expect the recovery of the city in a day.”

 

Prior to the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Palmyra was one of the country’s top tourist sites, attracting tens of thousands of visitors per year from around the world.

 

However, ISIS has instituted its draconian rule over Palmyra since capturing it last year, and has destroyed a number of the ancient heritage monuments scattered throughout the ancient city complex.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report.

A file photo of Palmyra, which was seized by ISIS in May 2015. (AFP)

ISIS members issued a call across loudspeakers for the remaining residents of the town to “leave as a result of the fighting reaching the outskirts of the city.”