Palmyra's mass graves reveal Isil's savage butchery in Syria
Syrian troops have identified 45 bodies so far in a mass grave found in the city of Palmyra after it was recaptured from Isil, a military source told journalists yesterday.
Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove Isil out of Palmyra last Sunday, inflicting what the army called a mortal blow to militants who had dynamited the city's ancient temples.
The communal grave, on the north-eastern edge of Palmyra, is the only one found so far in the city by the Syrian forces, the source said.
It held the bodies of both civilians and Syrian army members captured by Isil.
Syrian state news agency SANA said last Friday that the grave contained many women and children - and that some of the bodies had been beheaded.
In May last year, as Isil took control of Palmyra, the hard-line Islamist militants were reported by Syrian state media to have killed at least 400 people in the first four days of control.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the five-year-old Syrian conflict through a network of sources on the ground, said Isil had killed a number of people at an earlier time and buried them on the outskirts of the city.
The Observatory reported yesterday that fighting had broke out between Syrian forces and Isil around Qaryatain, to the west of Palmyra. It also reported Russian and Syrian air strikes in the same area and to the east of Palmyra around the town of Sukhna.
Government forces that were attacking Isil positions around Palmyra are aiming to move east across the desert to Islamic State-held Deir al-Zor, near the Iraqi border, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said.