The ancient ruins of Palmyra, one of Syria’s oldest cities, have stood for 3,000 years, but since last May, the Unesco World Heritage site has been facing some of the most brutal threats to its existence. Located in an oasis northeast of the Syrian capital of Damascus, Palmyra has become a significant symbolic and military position in the now 5-year-old Syrian conflict.
After seizing the city of roughly 50,000 residents last May, the Islamic State group was forced out of Palmyra over the weekend by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. On a strategic level, retaking Palmyra gives the Syrian regime a strong military base for future operations against the militants’ other strongholds as well as renewed control over some of Syria’s most important oil and gas fields. But regaining Palmyra is also a highly symbolic win for the Syrian regime — now trying to salvage whatever is left of the ancient ruins — in its quest to position itself as a key partner in the fight against the terrorist group, also known as ISIS.
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Image courtesy of Reuters
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