The Islamic State released a statement via its Amaq News Agency earlier today claiming that the jihadists have taken complete control of the ancient city of Palmyra. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has also reported that the jihadists seized the city.
SOHR reported just hours earlier that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s fighters had been forced to withdraw from Palmyra due to intense Russian bombings. SOHR described the Russian airstrikes as “intense and violent,” adding that “tens of raids” had been carried out since yesterday (Dec. 10). The Russian Defense Ministry claims that its jets launched 64 airstrikes, killing more than 300 militants around Palmyra, according to state-controlled media.
This helped set off a round of reporting saying that the Islamic State had been ejected from Palmyra after temporarily holding it.
However, Amaq and SOHR now both say that the jihadists have seized the city once again. The Syrian government, along with Russian forces and Iranian-backed fighters, ejected the Islamic State from Palmyra in March. The two sides have repeatedly clashed in the surrounding areas in Homs province since then.
Amaq’s statement claiming control of Palmyra was issued after a series of videos showing the so-called caliphate’s men closing in on the city and taking control of key defensive positions.
One video depicted the jihadists at the grain silos outside of Palmyra. Another documented the jihadists’ presence on the immediate outskirts of the city. (Screen shots from these videos can be seen below.)
Amaq has produced a steady of stream of short reports from the fighting as well. Late yesterday, Amaq said the Islamic State had captured the Syrian “officer housing at the eastern entrance of Palmyra city.” The propaganda outfit also said the jihadists have taken control of several other positions, and that the “Syrian Army and Shiite militia defenses” were “collapsing.”
Baghdadi’s men are eager to trumpet their gains. In yet another video, they are seen entering Palmyra proper, walking past buildings that were controlled by their enemies not long ago.
One Amaq video showed the Islamic State’s men at the grain silos outside of Palmyra:
Another Amaq video documents the jihadists’ presence on the outskirts of Palmyra:
Screenshots from Amaq’s video of Baghdadi’s men inside the city of Palmyra: