Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove Islamic State (ISIS) out of Palmyra on Sunday, inflicting what the Army called a mortal blow to militants, who seized the city last year and destroyed its ancient temples with dynamites.
Antiquities experts were already developing strategies for rehabilitating iconic ruins that were severely damaged by the militants who swept into the city last May.
The rout followed a three-week siege that left hundreds of militants dead and sent many more fleeing into the desert, the Army said.
It follows a string of military setbacks for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or or ISIL, in its efforts to create a Sunni-based caliphate from a wide swath of Syria and Iraq.
“Palmyra City is now fully cleared of ISIS terrorists after the Army established complete control over all its parts,” the Army said.
The loss of Palmyra represents one of the biggest setbacks for the ultra-hardline Islamist group since it declared a caliphate in 2014 across large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The Army General Command said that its forces took over the city with support from Russian and Syrian air strikes, opening up the huge expanse of desert leading east to the ISIS strongholds of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor.