ISIS has recaptured the historic city of Palmyra having driven out forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad during a sneak counter attack.
The governor of Homs province confirmed on state television that the army was trying to regain control of the city.
In the government’s first official admission that Palmyra had fallen once again to the militants, Talal Barazi was quoted on Ikhbariyah TV as saying the army had pulled out of the city.
An ISIS-affiliated news agency released footage of its terrorists reportedly attacking Palmyra
Bashar al-Assad has concentrated on crushing his opponents in Aleppo allowing ISIS to regroup and launch a counter-offensive on Palmyra, which had been freed in May
The released video shows one terrorist taking pot shots with a PKM light machine gun
He said: ‘The army is using all means to prevent the terrorists from staying in Palmyra,
After a sudden withdrawal by regime forces, ISIS jihadists made a lightning-fast advance across Palmyra, sparking new worries for its remaining ancient treasures.
According to Russia Today, ISIS managed to muster 4,000 terrorists supported by tanks and truck mounted with heavy machine guns.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been focused since mid-November on second city Aleppo, where they have retaken about 85 percent of the one-time rebel bastion in the city’s east.
On Sunday, they pounded the shrinking rebel enclave in Aleppo’s southeast with artillery and air strikes, seizing a large part of the Maadi district, a monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 10,000 people had fled the remaining rebel-held districts since midnight, heading to government-run west Aleppo and newly retaken areas in the city’s north and centre.
An estimated 120,000 people have poured out of east Aleppo since late November, according to the Britain-based monitor.
State news agency SANA said at least 4,000 people had fled rebel districts in just hours on Sunday and were taken by bus to temporary shelters.
This terrorist is seen firing an anti-tank missile during the reported attack on Palmyra
ISIS recaptured the historic city after a fierce battle with troops loyal to Bahar al-Assad
ISIS claims they even had a T-72 tank supporting its advance into the historic city
Heavy bombardment on the east could be heard through the night, rattling windows across the city in the west.
US and Russian officials were expected to continue talks in Geneva Sunday on trying to reach a ceasefire in Aleppo, but a week of intense diplomatic efforts have failed to stem the fighting.
Backing from Moscow, which launched an air war in support of Assad last year, has been crucial in the Syrian army’s ability to make gains across the country.
Russian raids overnight bolstered Syrian soldiers fighting off an ISIS offensive on Palmyra, the renowned UNESCO World Heritage site in central Syria.
But the jihadists launched a fresh attack on Sunday, the Observatory said, recapturing all of Palmyra after Syrian armed forces pulled out.
‘Despite the ongoing air raids, ISIS retook all of Palmyra after the Syrian army withdrew south of the city,’ said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency also reported that the terror group regained ‘full control’ of the city on Sunday after taking the citadel, which overlooks Palmyra from a strategic hilltop.
Capturing Palmyra from ISIS in May was considered a major symbolic victory for Assad’s forces — and for its Russian ally.
Russia has come under severe criticism in the West for its continued political and military support for Damascus as the regime pursues its all-out assault on east Aleppo.
Bashar al-Assad had been concentrating on Aleppo in the north of the country, allowing ISIS to regroup and launch their surprise attack on Palmyra and recapture the ancient city
Bashar al-Assad sent his tanks and troops north to Aleppo, pictured, to drive out the rebels
Syrian government forces have been increasing their stranglehold on the city of Aleppo
By concentrating their attack on opposition forces in Aleppo, pictured, Assad allowed ISIS to regroup and recapture the historic city of Palmyra which had earlier been recaptured
Moscow says it is consulting with Washington on the terms of a ceasefire in the city after a full rebel withdrawal, but there has been no sign of an agreement so far.
Pope Francis on Sunday made a heartfelt call for an end to violence in Aleppo and across war-ravaged Syria.
‘I appeal to all to choose civilisation: no to destruction, yes to peace, yes to the people of Aleppo and Syria,’ he said.
At least 413 civilians have been killed in east Aleppo since the November 15 start of the offensive, according to the Observatory, and 139 killed in rebel rocket fire on the city’s west.
With such heavy fighting, the retaking of Aleppo by Assad’s forces appears to only be a matter of time.
‘It looks now as if sadly Aleppo will fall,’ British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told BBC television on Sunday.
The loss of east Aleppo will deal the biggest blow to Syria’s opposition since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011.
‘We’re now past the point where the opposition has any hope of pulling things back,’ said Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
Assad ‘will have in effect broken the back of the armed opposition… and the idea that the regime can be overcome militarily will be finally put to rest.’
After meetings in Paris on Saturday, Western and Arab powers called for talks between the regime and opposition to end the war.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who called the regime’s bombings of Aleppo ‘war crimes’, said the time was ripe for a return to negotiations.
Now that the rebels ‘are about to lose Aleppo, conceivably… I think the best thing they can do is get to the table and negotiate. Because they can still win a political settlement that honours the fight and all they’ve invested,’ Kerry said.