RT EXCLUSIVE: ISIS position in Palmyra up-close, RT 1st intl TV crew to follow Syrian Army assault
The important UNESCO world heritage site has been under the control of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) since May. RT’s crew are the first among international TV journalists to report from the area, with IS fighters visible on a nearby hill.
The historic area has been ravaged by Islamic State and it is where the extremists brutally kill their prisoners to terrorize their opponents.
This week in Palmyra they tried out a new execution method: they tied three prisoners - Syrian Army soldiers - to columns that were part of the historic structure, and blew them up, the army told RT.
Every day, positions of Syrian soldiers in Palmyra are targeted by IS militant sniper fire, artillery and mortars. This is being exclusively filmed by RT.
Just meters from where the RT crew were filming, a mortar landed next to the car that had brought the journalists to the site. Shrapnel injured one of the Syrian Army soldiers.
The Army is preparing for an imminent offensive to retake Palmyra, a Syrian Army general told RT. The operation is extremely sensitive, given reports that Islamic State militants have laid explosives in the ruins. When the Army goes on the offensive, the terrorists can blow up the precious piece of history once and for all, RT were told.
"Ways to prevent the destruction of the heritage [site] are part of the military's plan. It's top secret and cannot be disclosed right now," the general said, adding that the time for the offensive is right.
"On the frontline the results of Russia's airstrikes can be seen by the naked eye, like the burning targets and armed terrorists running away amid the strikes. We also hear their screams through communication devices, as they call for help and reinforcements. Their moral is weakening," he told RT.
Living on the frontline for months on end away from their families, the soldiers have managed to stall the terrorists’ advance. The troops live in makeshift shelters, which resemble caves carved out of the rock. The conditions are extremely difficult, Lizzie Phelan reported. The soldiers not only face dangers on the frontline, they also have to deal with desert conditions: extremely hot during the day and very cold at night.
However, despite losses and facing death every minute, their spirits remain high, the soldiers told RT.
After seizing the ancient city of Palmyra in May, militants engaged in a "cultural cleansing" of the Middle East demolished several significant ancient temples and tombs. Only a couple of weeks ago, the iconic 2,000 years old Arch of Triumph at the UNESCO-protected site was blown up by jihadists. Last month, they obliterated several ancient funeral towers, while in August the terrorists blew up two temples – the Temple of Baal Shamin and the Temple of Bel.