HOMS – Militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) launched a new offensive against Syrian regime’s army forces in Homs province and seized control of several security checkpoints in the vicinity of Palmyra city, local sources reported on Thursday.
Subsequent to clashes, ISIS fighters captured at least 11 security checkpoints from the pro-Assad forces north of the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra, east of Homs.
“ISIS militants attacked the regime’s checkpoints with mortar fire and heavy machine guns, killing and wounding dozens of pro-regime forces in northeastern Palmyra,” media activist Amro al-Hussein told ARA News in Palmyra.
Sporadic clashes took place on Wednesday midnight before the regime troops were forced to evacuate the area, leaving behind at least 11 security checkpoints in the hands of ISIS militants, the source reported.
This comes just one day after the ISIS group took control of the strategic Sawana hill that overlooks the southwestern part of Palmyra city.
Also on Thursday, clashes renewed between the militant group and Syrian army forces near the Shaer oilfield in the eastern countryside of Homs province. However, ISIS fighters were forced to withdraw under sorties by the Syrian air force.
Ancient City Under Attack
Earlier this week, ISIS fighters launched an offensive on a Syrian army base in the al-Talela district in the vicinity of Palmyra in eastern Homs, bombing the base with a number of mortar shells. “At least seven soldiers were killed and over a dozen more wounded in the ISIS bombardment in the al-Talela base on Monday,” media activist Khaled al-Abdullah told ARA News in Palmyra.
In response, Syrian warplanes hit ISIS fighting positions near Palmyra, forcing the militants to withdraw.
“The ISIS withdrawal came after the group lost a number of its militants in clashes with Syrian army forces, and five of its vehicles were destroyed under airstrikes,” the source reported.
The Islamic State takes al-Sawami district in eastern Homs as a main stronghold, from which the group launches its attacks on pro-regime troops in the province.
In May 2015, ISIS took over Palmyra after fierce battles with Syrian regime army forces.
In March 2016, the pro-regime troops supported by Russian air force were able to impose full control over Palmyra downtown after ISIS extremists retreated towards the northern villages of Palmyra and its eastern outskirts. The group’s leadership has later ordered its militants to withdraw towards its main bastion of Raqqa, northeastern Syria.
In August 2015, satellite images confirmed the destruction of the Baal Shamin temple in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, according to the United Nations, which condemned ISIS claims of destroying the temple.
The U.N. has slammed the destruction of the temple as a “war crime,” and the act has raised concerns for the rest of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Also, ISIS published images last year, showing militants placing explosives into the temple in order to destroy the ancient monuments arguing they are worshipped by people and must be smashed, according to ISIS ideology.
Reporting by: Haytham Mustafa and Ghassan Hattab
Source: ARA News