Setback: Assad Army Dissolves as ISIS Surrounds Palmyra …again
Russia and the Assad army went after ISIS in Palmyra, liberating that city nine months ago. But now, ISIS fighters have once again entered the city after a 3 day campaign of fierce fighting. Pro-Assad air strikes were being conducted against ISIS in the Palmyra region, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
According to news reports, about 50 Syrian troops have been killed and many others may be fleeing. There are several families that returned after Russian and Syrian forces liberated the city. Some reports say that when the Syrian army left, they made no way for the civilians to get out, leaving them trapped.
Russia and Syria focused their entire attention on taking back Aleppo. It was a move that essentially left Palmyra without large numbers of troops. Even though some reinforcements were rushed to the city as soon as the ISIS campaign began, it was not enough to make a difference.
The activist-run Palmyra Coordination network said the militants had nearly encircled the city and entered its northern and northwestern neighborhoods. The group, which maintains contacts inside the city, said ISIS fighters were approaching the city’s UNESCO heritage site as well.
Osama al-Khatib said government soldiers were fleeing Palmyra.
“The army as an institution has dissolved,” he said. Some soldiers and militiamen remain in the city, along with 120 families who have not been able to leave, Khatib said. He spoke to The Associated Press from Gaziantep, Turkey.
“There is strong fighting on all sides,” he reported. “There is no exit except through a corridor to the west.”
… In Palmyra, Mohammad Hassan Homsi of the Palmyra News Network reported that a military division withdrew from the city earlier Saturday without leaving a way out for civilians. According to Homsi, only 350 families had returned to the city of its original 30,000 inhabitants after the government retook the city to great fanfare in March.
ISIS militants were shelling the government’s military airport to the east of the city, according to the Coordination group.
They also reported that the ISIS fighters had taken control of the nearby oil Jazal fields, and that they shot down a Syrian warplane.
According to the BBC,
“The activist-run Palmyra Co-ordination Collective said IS militants had seized the city’s military warehouse and its northern and western districts after taking government positions, oilfields and strategic heights in the surrounding countryside in a three-day campaign.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS fighters had reached the city’s hospital and its strategically located wheat silos.”
Assad and his Russian backers put most of the eggs in one basket,which is never a wise move. Reports of a surprise offensive in Mosul that has stopped the Iraqi forces for now is also out there.