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IS overruns parts of Unesco-listed Syrian city

IANS  |  Damascus 

The Islamic State (IS) Sunni radical group overran parts of the city of Palmyra in central Syria on Wednesday, capturing one-third of the city amid ongoing battles against the Syrian government forces, a monitoring group reported.

The IS militants managed to advance inside the city of Palmyra and controlled one-third of the ancient oasis city in the eastern countryside of Homs province amid ongoing battles between the terrorist group and Syrian army units, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based watchdog group, which relies on a network of activists on ground, said the IS militants were fighting for complete control of Palmyra, adding that the battles were coupled with airstrikes by the Syrian air force against IS positions in the city and countryside, Xinhua news agency reported.

A military source said the Syrian army destroyed positions of the IS in Amiriyeh in northern Palmyra.

The IS unleashed their offensive against Palmyra on May 13, and captured the towns of Sukhneh and Amiriyeh along with the oilfields of al-Hail and Arak.

The Syrian army sent reinforcements to defend Palmyra and managed to push the IS militants out of areas before terrorist outfir made progress on Wednesday.

Palmyra is home to the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilisations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences, according to the Unesco.

Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming in search of new clues of historical facts on the development of civilisations.

The Unesco has listed several Syrian sites on the World Heritage Sites list, including the old cities of Damascus and Aleppo, al-Madhiq castle, the Krak des Chevaliers, the ancient cities of Bosra and Palmyra and ancient villages in northern Syria.

First Published: Wed, May 20 2015. 19:26 IST