Islamist ISIS insurgents have seized "full control" of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra after government forces retreated from the area Thursday, according to reports.
The reports are reason for great fear - both for Palmyra's residents and its archaeological treasures.
ISIS fighters occupy the modern city, which is just a few hundred meters from the ancient columns, temples and arches that have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in the Middle Eastern nation, reported that the Sunni jihadists made their attack early Thursday morning.
U.N. and Syrian officials fear that ISIS plans to destroy the ruins, just as it did the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. The group also smashed statues in Iraq's Mosul Museum.
The seizure of Palmyra is ISIS' second huge victory in less than a week. Over the weekend, it took the key Iraqi city of Ramadi, which the U.S. State Department called a 'major blow'.
An accurate picture of who controlled what in and around Palmyra was difficult to obtain. Syria's state-run news agency, SANA, stated that Syrian forces had pulled out of some Palmyra neighborhoods amid a large assault from ISIS. The ISIS forces were trying to get into the archaeological sites.
At least 100 Syrian troops were killed in overnight fighting.