The Guardian
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Syria army seizes town north of Palmyra




Syria’s armed forces on Saturday expanded their control north of the historic city of Palmyra, state television reported, capturing a nearby town from Islamic State group jihadists.

Russian-backed Syrian troops seized the town of Al-Amiriyah on the northern outskirts of Palmyra “after fierce clashes” with IS fighters, state television said.

An AFP journalist on the western edge of Palmyra saw artillery operated by Russian and Syrian troops fired from a government-held hilltop on IS positions in the city.

“The clashes are taking place now in the Amiriyah neighbourhood, which is Daesh’s gateway into the city,” a Syrian military source told AFP.

IS overran Palmyra in May 2015, causing a global outcry in fear of the UNESCO world heritage site known as the “Pearl of the Desert”.

The group has since blown up UNESCO-listed temples and looted relics that dated back thousands of years.

As they advanced last year, the jihadists executed some 67 civilians, including 14 children and 12 women, in several towns including Al-Amiriyah, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

The government’s fresh advance on Saturday builds on gains made by pro-regime forces in the city’s southwestern outskirts in recent days.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported that Syria’s armed forces had “launched several operations at dawn this morning (Saturday) towards the Gardens District south of the city.”

It said pro-government forces were also fighting IS in Palmyra’s airport, to the city’s east.

Syria’s armed forces launched their offensive to retake the city earlier this month, backed by a barrage of Russian air strikes.

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