Syrian regime forces retook all of ancient Syrian city of Palmyra from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, a military source told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Sunday.
Ever since the militant group overran the Palmyra ruins and neighboring modern city in May 2015, it has destroyed prominent monuments in the centuries-old city located in western governorate of Homs, triggering international uproar.
“After heavy fighting during the night, the army is in full control of Palmyra — both the ancient site and the residential neighborhoods,” the source told AFP. “Army sappers are in the process of defusing dozens of bombs and mines planted inside the ancient site.”
The ISIS militants reportedly moved back to the towns of Sukhnah and Deir Ezzor to the east following the setback, AFP reported.
The historic city is known for famed Roman-era ruins and was considered one of Syria’s top tourist spots. However, after ISIS took control of Palmyra nearly a year ago, the extremist group has destroyed several hundred relics along with many of the oldest and most popular ancient temples in the region.
Losses, since the ISIS captured the city, include the Elahbel Tomb, Baal Shamin Temple, Temple of Bel, the Valley of the Tombs, as well as numerous statues and artifacts, most of which date from the first or second century AD. In late 2015, ISIS blew up the Arch of Triumph, a prominent monument, and Palmyra’s funeral towers — sandstone structures built to contain the 2,000-year-old city’s richest families.
ISIS has also used the ancient amphitheater in Palmyra, also known as the “Pearl of the Desert,” as a place for public executions, including the beheading of Khaled Asaad, who was the city’s 82-year-old former antiquities chief.