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IS group withdraws from Syria's Palmyra after Russian strikes

Maher Al Mounes, AFP | This file photo taken on March 27, 2016 shows the remains of the Arch of Triumph in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

Russian war planes carried out over 60 strikes overnight on Syria's Palmyra after Islamic State jihadists re-entered the famed ancient city, halting the offensive, Russia's defence ministry said Sunday.


"Russian air force planes carried out 64 air strikes against the positions, convoys and advancing reserves of militants," a defence ministry statement said.

"Over the past night, Syrian government troops with active support of the Russian air force thwarted all terrorist attacks on Palmyra," it said.

"The attacking militants actively used car bombs with suicide bombers, armoured vehicles and rocket artillery," it said, adding that the strikes killed more than 300 militants and destroyed 11 tanks and 31 vehicles.

On Saturday the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights monitor said IS jihadists, who were forced out of Palmyra in March, took most of the city back under their control and surrounded the airport.

Russia has carried out a bombing campaign in Syria in support of its old ally President Bashar al-Assad since September 2015.

The liberation of Palmyra was hailed as a major victory, with Russian celebrities travelling there since March staging concerts and making public appearances.

Moscow has been under severe criticism for its air strikes on Aleppo -- which it says it stopped on October 18 -- where the anti-Assad opposition is currently holed up in just a fraction of the territory it once controlled.

The city's eastern districts are still being bombed by the Syrian regime which Washington has labelled "war crimes" and a UN General Assembly demanded an immediate ceasefire to stop the carnage.


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