Islamic State forces took control of Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra once again on Sunday, the second time they have claimed the city in days and more than eight months after the radical militia was ousted by government forces, a monitoring group reported.
Islamic State fighters seized the historic city, its airport and a castle located outside Palmyra despite intense airstrikes by regime jets and those of its ally, Russia, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.
The militants’ breakthrough comes hours after the air bombardment forced them to leave Palmyra following a brief takeover late Saturday.
Some 120 regime troops and allied militiamen were killed in fierce clashes with Islamic State fighters, the Observatory said.
Dozens of extremists were also killed and injured in the violence, according to the watchdog.
Counter attacks by IS compelled regime forces to retreat from Palmyra to the desert on the city’s south-western outskirts, it added.
Syria’s state news agency SANA, said that the army was engaged in fighting against IS on the edges of Palmyra.
“The army units are repulsing an attack launched by large numbers of Daesh terrorists from several directions,” SANA said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The agency did not comment on reports that Palmyra, which lies in the central province of Homs, had fallen again to IS.
In late March, government forces recaptured Palmyra, which IS had seized in May 2015, wreaking havoc on the city’s famed monuments.