It may not mean the end for IS, whose heartlands of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, and Mosul remain safe havens, but it is a step in chipping away at the group’s power base, both geographically and strategically, as well as debasing the myth that the caliphate’s armies are all-conquering and unable to be defeated.

Quite apart from protecting its beauty and historic importance – which IS forces have shown no respect for – reversing the fall of Palmyra is psychologically important.

The fall of the town and its historic sites to IS in May 2015 had much the same psychological effect as when IS forces rolled into Ramadi in Iraq the same month. Having suffered territorial defeats in Baiji, Tikrit, Kobani and Hassakah, IS was able to rebound almost immediately by taking both towns. In both cases, the forces of the Syrian and Iraqi state crumbled before their advance.

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Image courtesy of Sana/EPA

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