4,000 ISIS fighters regroup, make new attempt to capture Palmyra, Syria – Reconciliation Center

Over 4,000 Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, reinforced by tanks, have started an offensive to retake the key Syrian city of Palmyra after regrouping themselves, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria says.

According to the Russian military, the terrorists have received considerable reinforcement, including heavy military hardware from the regions of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

IS has dispatched a considerable force to Palmyra from the area of Raqqa, where militants, backed by the US and the international coalition ceased combat action against the terrorists this week,” the statement by the Russian military says.

The Reconciliation Center notes that the Syrian Army is engaged in fighting the jihadists.

Despite heavy losses in manpower and [military] hardware, the terrorists seek to come as close as possible and gain a foothold in the city, as the Russian Air Force is not conducting airstrikes against residential areas in the city of Palmyra,” the statement reads. 

Palmyra was seized by IS in 2015, however in March this year Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air support, managed to liberate the city.

Overnight Saturday, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian air strikes, managed to repel several attacks on Palmyra, killing up to 300 jihadists, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Also on Saturday, terrorists reportedly entered some of Palmyra’s districts forcing the Syrian troops to withdraw from some of their positions. According to AP, citing the activist-run Palmyra Coordination network, jihadists gained footholds in the northern and northwestern districts of Palmyra.

According to the Russian Center for Reconciliation, the terrorists are receiving support from jihadists coming from Iraq.

Earlier [Russian] intelligence spotted a transfer of up to 5,000 IS-militants to the areas of Raqqa and Deyr ez Zor from Mosul, Iraq,” the statement says.

In October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that terrorists “could flee from Mosul and go to Syria.”

Meanwhile, IS has claimed through its news agency Amaq, that the jihadists seized the city. In particular they claimed IS has control of the ancient castle in Palmyra, which overlooks the city.

In an interview with RT, award-winning British journalist Martin Jay alleged that some of the fighters now attacking Palmyra might indeed have come from Iraq.

"Mosul in the early months of [the] campaign was quite open and there were many so-called ratlines, those were corridors for ISIS fighters to leave the city. I think in the first few weeks of the campaign when it was first announced by Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq, many fighters fled and moved to different areas across the border in Syria," Jay said.

He noted that the fresh battle for Palmyra could take "quite some time" and in fact become a "prolonged" one. To prevent Russian aircraft from helping Syrian government forces, terrorists might also go deep into residential areas and take people there hostage. using them as shields.

"That's the tactic that worked for them from the very early days, you know, use civilians as buffers against air strikes." Jay also noted that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) might use the attack on Palmyra [listed as UNESCO heritage] as a PR tool since "the world cares a great deal [more] about Palmyra than it probably does about Aleppo, and ISIS knows this."

"So, with a relatively simple infrastructure, few cameras and a few activists tweeting, it [ISIS] can get maximum PR effect by destroying Palmyra and that's what is happening, that's why it is significantly important," the British journalist concluded.