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Wednesday, March 1

SAA retakes Palmyra Citadel, sneaks into Palmyra City

"The final SAA assault is expected to begin on Thursday morning."
-- AMN

"Syria’s Director of Antiquities told Phelan that his staff evacuated over 95 percent of the antiques from Palmyra, including the most precious artifacts. Staff are now waiting for the right moment to enter the city again to assess the damage caused by IS this time."
-- RT

Events are moving so fast regarding the Syrian Army's assault on Islamic State's positions in Palmyra that by tomorrow evening Syria time (7 hrs ahead of US Eastern time) the SAA could rout IS. Leith Fadel is even more hopeful; he wrote on his Twitter page that Palmyra could be liberated tonight. But I think the army needs to move very carefully because of all the booby traps set by IS. 

For now:

ISIS in big trouble as the Syrian Army enters Palmyra city
By Chris Tomson
1 March 2017
AMN

Moments ago, Syrian troops entered the western part of Palmyra city and sneaked into several buildings despite coming under heavy fire from ISIS snipers and machine-gun positions.

This important breakthrough was facilitated by the liberation of Palmyra Castle and Palmyra Triangle earlier in the day and a series of advances over the past week.

Furthermore, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) advanced north of the city and took control of al-Amiryah village along with the strategic Jabal al-Tar, a mountain overlooking Palmyra city.

However, pro-government tribal fighters and paramilitary fighters have officially entered Palmyra.

The final SAA assault is expected to begin on Thursday morning.

Leading the offensive is the newly formed 5th Legion, elements of the SAA’s 18th Tank Division, Military Shield Forces, Al-Badia branch, Shaitat tribesmen, National Defence Forces, and a contingent of Hezbollah (Lebanese paramilitary) fighters.
ISIS recaptured Palmyra in December, 2016 after between 4,000 and 5,000 jihadist militants overran the city and pushed the SAA all the way back to Tiyas Airbase.

Subsequently, Syrian government forces have advanced 50 kilometers eastwards and are now on the verge of retaking the ancient city.

[END REPORT]

And now a report from RT's stalwart correspondent Lizzie Phelan:

Syrian Army retakes Palmyra citadel from ISIS – sources to RT
Published time: 1 March 2017 - 15:01
RT

Syrian government forces and their allies have liberated the Palmyra citadel located on a hill overlooking the town from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants, sources tell RT.

“Pro-government forces are now in control of several strategic mountains that are overlooking the ancient city of Palmyra. They also have under their control the famous citadel,” RT’s Lizzie Phelan reports, citing sources that are in direct contact with the army command center on the Palmyra front.

The Syrian Army does not have any forces stationed in the citadel, as it is filled with improvised explosive devices, but it is under their control, she added.

[map of Palmyra region]

The Syrian Army took control over “the heights surrounding the historic citadel of Palmyra and as well as the SyriaTel hill after Islamic State militants abruptly left the area,” a field commander told RIA Novosti.

As a result, Palmyra is now “at a stone throw” from the Syrian Army, which is rapidly advancing towards the city, the commander added.

The army is now storming a hotel district in the southwestern part of Palmyra, RIA Novosti reports, citing a source.

[RT video of SAA advance on Palmyra]

Earlier, the area known as the ‘Palmyra triangle,’ located to the west of the ancient city, was recaptured by the army backed by “supporting forces,” following days of advance operations, Syrian state news agency SANA reported.

Government forces engaged in fierce clashes with IS militants, leaving scores of them dead or injured, and chasing down those who retreated, the report added. Engineers are currently carrying out a clean-up of bombs and landmines in the area.

Ancient Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fell under Islamic State control in 2015. The world was shocked when it came to light that terrorists were destroying a number of iconic monuments, including the 1,800-year-old Monumental Arch of Palmyra, most of the Temple of Bel, and the Temple of Baalshamin.

In March 2016, Syrian government forces backed by Russian air support liberated the city, and reconstruction efforts on the extensive damage done by IS began.

[video - RT exclusive on liberation of Palmyra Citadel]

However, Palmyra was seized by militants again in December, after which Islamic State terrorists destroyed part of a Roman theater and the legendary Tetrapylon in the ancient city.

The act was described as “a war crime” and “an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity” by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

Syria’s Director of Antiquities told Phelan that his staff evacuated over 95 percent of the antiques from Palmyra, including the most precious artefacts. Staff are now waiting for the right moment to enter the city again to assess the damage caused by IS this time.

[END REPORT]

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