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Syrian forces enter ancient city of Palmyra — media

March 24, 2016, 13:48 UTC+3 BEIRUT

A well-informed source in Damascus told TASS that every effort is made to protect the ancient monuments

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BEIRUT, March 24. /TASS/. Syrian government troops and self-defense forces are pursuing retreating terrorist gangs on the western outskirts of the ancient city of Palmyra, Al Manar TV station reported on Thursday.

Syrian government forces have regained control over the Wadi-al-Qubur district and continue their offensive into the city, destroying militant defensive units on the way.

At night Syrian forces destroyed a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization on one of the hills at the Qasr el-Muzza palace.

Eyewitnesses say that some areas in the city are mined by militants hampering the movement of Syrian forces. It is not ruled out that terrorists may have planted bombs on the territory of the historical and archaeological site on the south-west of Palmyra.

A well-informed source in Damascus told TASS that every effort is made to protect the ancient monuments.

"We can confirm that the Syrian troops have entered the historical part of Palmyra," the source said.

According to him, the operation continues. "The army is making every effort not to damage the historic monuments," the source said.

On Wednesday, a government source in Damascus told TASS that Palmyra was under the Syrian army’s fire control. Earlier on Wednesday, the Al Joumhouria newspaper reported on its website that the advance detachments of the Syrian government army had entered the outskirts of the historical town of Palmyra.

Militants from the Islamic State terrorist group (which is banned in Russia) seized Palmyra early in the summer of 2015. The Syrian authorities warned at that time that the unique historical complex could repeat the sad fate of the ancient Iraqi cities of Ashur and Nimrud, which had been fully ruined and eliminated by insurgents.

SANA news agency reported that militants destroyed the ancient fortress of Emir Fakhr-al-Din on the entrance to Palmyra from the side of Homs. In less than a year of IS control, militants destroyed the famous Arch of Triumph, Temple of Baalshamin and Temple of Ba’al. They also looted the Palmyra Museum and Necropolis.

Most Palmyra residents left the city last May together with the troops. Now there are from 15,000 to 20,000 people there.

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