Russian airstrikes continue to bombard Syria, and the most recent strikes have hit ISIS targets around the city of Palmyra. The strikes were Russia’s first in an area of known ISIS-operations. All previous strikes have been in locations not known to house ISIS militants - thus confirming suspicions that Russia is primarily attacking groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Syrian state television reported that, “The Russian air force in coordination with the Syrian air force targeted positions held by the Islamic State group in and around the city of Palmyra.” The report also indicated that the airstrikes destroyed “20 armoured vehicles, three ammunition warehouses and three rocket launchers.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the strikes on Palmyra killed at least 15 ISIS fighters and injured many more. Another four ISIS fighters were killed near the eastern city of Raqqa.
The Lebanese Hezbollah group-run Al Manar television reported that Russian planes also attacked four areas in the Jabal al-Zawiya area in the northwestern province of Idlib. The Lebanese Hezbollah supports al-Assad.
ISIS forces first captured the city of Palmyra in May of this year. This was an advance which brought the fighters closer to the center of government-held territory in the western region of Syria. The capture of Palmyra also put the city’s most precious, ancient, Roman-era ruins and remains under ISIS control.
Over the weekend, ISIS blew up the Arch of Triumph after previously destroying the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel. ISIS regards such remains and grave markers as idolatrous. Yet, the group will smuggle and sell these antiquities to raise money for their cause. Many experts believe the group destroys the historic sites in order to grab headlines and recruit newcomers.
Syria’s antiquities chief Maamun Abdulkarim warned that ISIS will conduct a “systematic destruction” of the city of Palmyra, stating that, “They want to raze it completely.”