Syrian army, backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, fights IS in Palmyra

Palmyra is known as the "bride of the desert," in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian airstrikes have seized three neighborhoods inside Palmyra, a town with famed Roman-era ruins that fell to the Islamic State group last May, state media reported Saturday.

Russian jets carried out 40 air sorties near Palmyra in the past day, hitting 158 targets and killing over 100 militants, Russia’s defense ministry said.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen have taken up positions in the three neighborhoods that are part of the modern town, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

Palmyra, affectionately known as the “bride of the desert,” used to attract tens of thousands of tourists every year. IS drove out government forces in a matter of days and later demolished some of the best-known monuments in the UNESCO world heritage site. The extremists believe ancient ruins promote idolatry.

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