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Experts: Palmyra liberation may be decisive for ousting terrorists from Syria

The Syrian army established control over Palmyra on Sunday supported by Russian Aerospace Forces that delivered airstrikes on 158 facilities of IS militants in the Palmyra area just in one day

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. The liberation of the city of Palmyra has become possible because the Syrian army’s forces and facilities with Russia’s air support have achieved superiority over the Islamic state (IS) terrorist group militants, say experts interviewed by TASS. According to them, for expelling the militants from Syria and their possible destruction it is necessary to expand the offensive front on the Islamic State's self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in the country’s north.

The Syrian army established control over Palmyra on Sunday. The Syrian army conducted the offensive on the stronghold of the terrorists who seized the city in May 2015 with support of the local Desert Falcons militia units, fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and Russia’s Aerospace Forces. The Aerospace Forces delivered airstrikes on 158 facilities of IS militants in the Palmyra area just in one day.

Victory over barbarians

President of the Middle East Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yevgeny Satanovsky says that taking Palmyra is one of the largest "civilized victories over barbarians" who have been methodically destroying antiquities. According to him, this symbolic victory is welcomed by the whole world, including the UN Secretary-General and UNESCO's leadership.

Expert of the Moscow Carnegie Center Alexei Malashenko says that the liberation of Palmyra from vandals will forever remain in history as Russia’s merit, because this momentous event could not take place without Russia’s participation in that most difficult offensive operation. "For the IS leaders who were preparing to mark the second anniversary of their organization in June, the loss of control over Palmyra is a painful, if not fatal, blow. It is, above all, the IS masterminds’ political defeat that may be followed by their military defeat," the expert on Islamic studies told TASS.

Ability to build on success

According to Satanovsky, the strategic importance of the liberation of Palmyra is the separation of the territories occupied by terrorists into two parts. "Now the IS militant groups entrenched in southern Syria will not be able to receive reinforcements from Turkey", the expert said.

Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences Konstantin Sivkov said for his part that ousting the IS militants from Palmyra has been possible because the Syrian army’s forces and facilities achieved superiority over the enemy’s manpower. The military analyst said that not only the Russian Aerospace Forces, but also Russia’s special action forces, one of the fighters of which was killed in combat with the terrorists, have contributed to the operation’s success.

"So far, Syrian President Bashar Assad has not enough forces to build on the success reached in Palmyra. For continuing the offensive on Raqqa with the aim to break the back of the terrorist organization it is necessary to increase the number of militias, fighters of the Hezbollah movement and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fighting on the side of the Syrian army. It is necessary to divide, break up the IS groups in Syria, encircle them in ‘mousetraps’ and destroy", Sivkov said.

Satanovsky also says it is possible not only to squeeze terrorists out of Syria, but also to destroy them, just like the Soviet army with the allies’ support during World War II destroyed fascism. However, the expert is skeptical about the possibility of pooling the efforts Russia and the US-led anti-terrorist coalition in the joint struggle against IS: "Russia does not need this. If the United States needs Russia's support - it should request it."

According to Malashenko, the possibility of the IS resounding defeat is an open question. "The Islamists are mostly ready to fight to the bitter end by virtue of their mentality. On the other hand, all the roads from Syria are open for IS militants: the terrorists can ‘crawl’ into Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, as well as into Pakistan where they have intensified terrorist attacks. That is, humanity is still far from total victory over international terrorism," the expert on Islamic studies said.

The Syrian army on Sunday announced that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, with support from the Russian air group. Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province, was seized by gunmen of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in early summer 2015. The Syrian authorities said back then that Palmyra with its monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, could share the miserable fate of Iraq’s ancient cities of Assur, Nimrud and Hatra that were destroyed by Islamic State militants.