Syrian forces retake strategic Christian town of al-Qaryatain

A view shows the damage at the Monumental Arch in the historical city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria © Omar Sanadiki
Syrian government forces, with the aid of Russian airstrikes, have taken the Islamic State-held town of al-Qaryatain, on the outskirts of the historic Palmyra complex. Victory was achieved after several days of fighting.

The Christian town is located some 100km (60 miles) west of the battered ancient Syrian landmark, which had been experiencing heavy fighting until its recapture by government forces last Sunday from Islamic State terrorists (ISIS/IS, formerly ISIL). There are still traces of fighting on the western outskirts of al-Qaryatain, according to RIA Novosti.

The anti-ISIS (Daesh in Arabic) forces “fully restored security and stability to the town after killing the last remaining groups of Daesh terrorists,” according to Syrian television.

Syrian officers report that currently 80 percent of recaptured al-Qaryatain is under government control, and that IS fighters are retreating in cars to the north. The government forces are also bringing in heavy artillery to completely wipe IS’ presence from the area.

By the end of Saturday, after fierce fighting with jihadists, the Syrian Army managed to capture the Suniyat-Homs mountain range that lies two kilometers from the strategic town in the Homs countryside. Al-Qaryatayn will become a major strategic loss for IS because of the town’s location along the Damascus-Homs highway.

Russian bomb disposal units have been working to clear neighboring Palmyra of unexploded ordnances.