Syrian troops are closer to recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State (ISIS) militants who took over the UNESCO Heritage site in May 2015.
Syrian government forces, backed by airstrikes by Russian warplanes, are now within 3km of Palmyra after two weeks of intense battles.
“God willing, within a few hours we will enter and secure the town,” a Syrian officer told media.
The jihadist group sparked global outrage last August when it destroyed many famous structures in the historic city, including 2000-year-old temples. The Islamic extremists driving ISIS said the sites, abandoned for centuries, promoted sacrilegious idol-worshipping.
A Syrian victory in Palmyra would be both symbolic and strategic, as those who control the ancient city will also control the surrounding desert, extending to the Iraqi border.
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Image of ISIS fighters preparing to destroy Palmyra’s historic Temple of Baal was published in the group’s propaganda magazine Dabiq.