The Syrian government’s operation to liberate the ancient town of Tadmor (Palmyra), a UNESCO World Heritage site, 133 miles northeast of Damascus, were made possible with Russia’s support, an informed source in Damascus told TASS over the phone on Sunday. Syrian government media reported early Sunday morning that government troops had liberated Tadmor and started mine-clearing in the city streets. Tadmor is located in an oasis in the middle of the Syrian Desert.
In 1929, Henri Arnold Seyrig, the general director of antiquities in the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, started excavating the city of Tadmor. These contain the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Tadmor, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.
In May 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city, and their forces entered the area of the World Heritage Site. In less than a year of ISIS control, the group destroyed the tomb of Mohammed bin Ali, a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s cousin Ali, and the tomb of Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine, a Sufi scholar who lived in Tadmor in the 16th century (a site revered by Shia Muslims). Also gone are the famous Arch of Triumph, the Temple of Baalshamin and the Temple of Ba’al. ISIS also looted the Tadmor Museum and Necropolis, and destroyed a number of tombstones at a local cemetery and placed explosives around the city.
The Syrian source confirmed to TASS that Syrian government troops had established control of the historical part of Tadmor. “I’m personally grateful to Russia for that,” he said. The source also said that the Syrian army had advanced to Qariatin southwest of Tadmor, where the terrorists were entrenched. “The army is already taking control of the outskirts of Qariatin,” the source said.
The Russian Center for the Syrian Ceasefire said on Saturday evening that Russia’s air task force had flown 40 sorties over the past twenty-four hours in the area of Tadmor. Russian warplanes delivered strikes against 158 terrorist objectives, killing at least 100, destroying four tanks, three artillery pieces, four depots with ammunition and five motor vehicles.
Most Tadmor residents left the city last May, together with the Syrian government troops. Only between 15,000 and 20,000 people have remained.