ISIS fighters seized the northern part of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra Saturday after hard clashes with government forces, according to an activist group .
“ISIS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group.
Rahman added that 13 jihadi fighters were killed in the heavy clashes near the Islamic citadel in the west of Palmyra. He had no details on the government forces casualties.
A video was posted on social media which shows a man raising a black ISIS flag on a building from northern Palmyra. The video seemed to be authentic. The ISIS fighters have captured a gas field northeast of Palmyra and several nearby villages.
Most of Palmyra’s renowned ruins, such as elaborately decorated tombs and colonnaded streets, lie to the southwest of the city.
ISIS started its offensive on Palmyra Wednesday and got closer to the ancient metropolis Thursday. The militant group executed more than 50 civilians over the last two days.
Syrian government troops put up fierce resistance on Saturday to an Islamic State group charge on one of the most important regions of the country’s heritage, ancient Palmyra. At least 47 regime sympathizers and 29 ISIS fighters were killed as the jihadists overran northern neighborhoods of the modern town of Tadmur, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced.
Th group reported heavy artillery fire in the west of the town, near the UNESCO-listed world heritage site. There were no reports of damage to the ancient city’s 1st and 2nd century temples.
ISIS was reinforcing its position from its stronghold in the Euphrates Valley after sustaining heavy losses in its move on the oasis town, provincial governor Talal Barazi said for AFP. The town’s population of 70,000 has been crowded by an influx of civilians who are fleeing in front of the ISIS advance.
“We are taking all necessary precautions, and we are working on securing humanitarian aid quickly in fear of mass fleeing from the city,” Barazi said.
Syrian antiquities chief Mamoun Abdulkarim expressed extreme concern for the ancient site and its nearby museum, after ISIS destroyed some of the artifacts in pre-Islamic sites like Nimrud and Hatra in neighbouring Iraq.
“I am living in a state of terror. ISIS will blow everything up. They will destroy everything,” Abdulkarim said.
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