Syrian Army Retakes Al-Qaryatain From IS

Syrian Army Retakes Al-Qaryatain From ISSyrian Army Retakes Al-Qaryatain From IS

Backed by Russian warplanes, Syrian forces have reportedly regained control of a strategic town near the historical city of Palmyra. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighting is still ongoing.

The Syrian Army said in a statement on Sunday that, backed by air cover from Syrian and Russian jets, units from the army had “restored security and stability to the town of Al-Qaryatain”.

The central Syrian city is located around 100 kilometers southwest of Palmyra—an ancient city that Syrian forces recaptured from the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group last week. Al-Qaryatain had been held by the militant group since August 2015, when most of the town’s Christian residents were forced to flee, DPA reported.

According to the army’s statement, Al-Qaryatain is strategically important in the fight against IS, as it secures oil and gas pipelines in the area and cuts off supply routes for IS between the Syrian desert and the region of Qalamoun close to the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Syrian forces were in control of most of Al-Qaryatain, but that they were still engaged in fighting to the north and southeast of the city.

“The government forces have controlled the center of the town, but clashes are still underway in several parts on the outskirts,” Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman said, adding that IS militants had withdrawn to the eastern side of Al-Qaryatain.

Abdel-Rahman said the recapture of Al-Qaryatain was “symbolic”, as it is the second town to fall after Palmyra.

IS has lost significant ground in Syria since September when Russia started an air campaign there in support of the Syrian government.

Also on Sunday, the US said IS militant Jasim Khadijah had been killed overnight in coalition drone airstrikes in northern Iraq. Khadijah was believed to have been responsible for the shelling of a base used by US troops near the northern Iraqi town of Makhmour in March. US Marine Staff Sergeant Louis Cardin was killed in the attack and eight others were wounded.