Russian warplanes hit Syria's Isil-held Palmyra city
Russian warplanes were said to have launched heavy strikes on the Isil-held city of Palmyra yesterday, in what may be a prelude to a Syrian government bid to recapture the historic site lost to the jihadist group last May.
Dozens of Isil fighters were killed or wounded in strikes that followed heavy air raids in the Palmyra area on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said. The attacks add to the pressure on a group losing ground to a separate, US-backed campaign by Syrian militia in the northeast, and whose military commander was declared probably dead on Tuesday. Isil's tactics in Syria appear to reflect the strains, as it turns to suicide missions aimed at causing maximum casualties rather than territorial gains.
The Observatory said Russian planes carried out 150 raids in the Palmyra area on Wednesday, followed by further attacks yesterday. "If they take [Palmyra)] and Qarayatain, the regime would have taken back a big geographic area of Syria," said Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman.
The loss of Qaraytain and Palmyra and surrounding desert would reduce Isil's hold to 20pc of Syria.