Islamic State (ISIS) fighters have this evening recaptured the city of Palmyra in central Syria.
The city’s capture comes in the face of a 3 day-long assault, which began with them capturing strategic oil/gas fields in the desert to the north of the city, before moving south.
The militant group then managed to ambush a pro-Government counterattack yesterday, causing significant casualties to the SAA and NDF forces, as well as destroying several vehicles.
Today the group pressed their attack on Palmyra, capturing several strategic heights around the city as well as the grain silo complex, which defending pro-Government troops had fortified as a strongpoint.
Finally ISIS fighters closed in on the urban area of Palmyra, attacking from the north through the al-Ameriyah district, before moving into the heart of the city. By mid-evening local time they had established full control of the city, and forced the defending pro-Government troops to retreat.
The fall of the Palmyra to ISIS is nonetheless surprising given the serious defeats the group has suffered in northern Syria and Iraq in recent months. Moreover, its Iraqi de-facto capital is now besieged by Iraqi troops and ISIS is now slowly losing control over the city’s eastern suburbs.
Despite this pressure, the group has once again proved its resilience and continued threat, taking advantage of pro-Government and Russian troops apparent distraction caused by the battle for Aleppo.
With Palmyra once again in the hands of the Islamic State, the remaining pro-Government troops located in Deir Ez-Zour are also again in a more precarious position. Nonetheless, given the massive attrition rate of ISIS fighters – the US claims to have killed 50,000 over the course of its bombing campaign – it is unclear for how much longer the group with be able to mount coordinated offensives.
While embarrassing for the Assad Government and Russia, the loss of Palmyra may turn out to be a “last gasp” for ISIS before it enters a phase of long-term collapse.