A Third of Palmyra Residents May Have Fled

A Third of Palmyra Residents May Have FledA Third of Palmyra Residents May Have Fled

Around one third of the 200,000 people living in the Syrian town of Palmyra may have fled in the past few days, during fighting between government forces and Islamic State insurgents, the UN human rights office said on Thursday, Reuters wrote.

Citing what she said were credible sources, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani in Geneva also said there were reports of government forces preventing civilians leaving until they themselves fled and IS militants took control of the city.

“IS has reportedly been carrying out door-to-door searches in the city, looking for people affiliated with the government. At least 14 civilians are reported to have been executed by IS in Palmyra this week,” Shamdasani said in emailed comments.

More than 100 pro-Syrian government fighters have been reported killed as IS captured all of the historic city of Palmyra, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). It also said more than 460 people have been killed since IS offensive began on Palmyra on May 13.

The taking of Palmyra could mean that more than half of Syrian territory is now under IS control. The group already controlled wide tracts of the north and east, though these areas were mostly desert. This is the first time they have seized a large population centre directly from Syrian pro-government forces.

 Key Syria-Iraq Crossing Seized

IS seized the last Syrian government-controlled border crossing between Syria and Iraq, SOHR said. Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf - known as al-Waleed in Iraq - crossing as IS advanced, the group said.

The loss of al-Tanf to IS follows the group’s takeover of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday. The US says that fighting the militants will be a “difficult challenge.”

The militants dominate the provinces of Deir al-Zour and Raqqa and have a strong presence in Hasakeh, Aleppo, Homs and Hama.

However, correspondents say there are large areas under IS control in the east that are not very significant strategically.

IS has also been made significant gains in neighboring Iraq, capturing the strategically-important city of Ramadi in Anbar Province after weeks of fighting.

In April, IS managed to capture and control most of the Yarmouk District, 8km away from the center of Damascus. Yarmouk is mostly inhabited by Palestinian refugees.