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4 Mar, 2017 01:16

Destroyed ISIS tanks, ongoing battles witnessed by RT crew in liberated Palmyra (EXCLUSIVE)

Risking their lives within the crosshairs of terrorist tanks, an RT crew traveled to the battlefront in Palmyra to report on the Syrian army advances in clearing the outskirts of the ancient city from Islamic State jihadists.

The Syrian city was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group on Thursday, with the help of Russian air support and military planning.

As the ancient city and a key power plant were secured by Syrian government forces, the terrorist group first relocated its remaining fighters and tanks to the military airport. After several intense hours of fire exchanges, IS fighters were driven out from their positions at the airport, and have retreated “in the direction of the Silos” in the “eastern bounds of Palmyra,” Sana reported.

RT’s crew followed the battle, reporting from the military airport just hours after the facility had been retaken by government forces. Standing less than 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away from battlefront, RT’s correspondent Lizzie Phelan noted the rampant IS tank movements that were still attacking government lines.

“They are firing towards this area,” the RT correspondent noted, risking her life to capture the exclusive footage from the frontline.

“There is also ISIS tanks around 2.5 km from here. One of them just fired towards us,” Phelan noted after changing her position. “They are moving constantly to make it harder for them to be targeted” by government forces.

“Pro-government forces warning here that it looks like that they are just about to start a new offensive,” the war corresponded explained.

READ MORE: Drone footage shows war toll taken on Palmyra’s ancient center (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Palmyra is currently under control of government forces, but it remains unknown whether some IS militants are still within the confines of the city itself.

Footage by RT's Lizzie Phelan shows Hayyan Gas Fields near Palmyra burning after the Syrian Arab Army, backed by the Russian Air Force, liberated the historic city from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists on Thursday.

Meanwhile, thousands of mines left by the retreating terrorists pose an immediate threat to the city.

“The Syrian army still has to go street by street to check that the entire city is free from IS fighters,” Phelan reported.

But despite sporadic battles, terrorists are on the retreat, especially after an elite Syrian army unit called “ISIS hunters” captured a strategically important power plant at the south entrance of Palmyra. That crucial victory cut off the jihadist's supply route into the city.

The recently formed “ISIS hunters” is an elite unit of the Syrian army, tasked only with “retaking and protecting” Palmyra. The unit has been making “rapid advances” in the city, Phelan noted, showing three destroyed tanks which were left in the city after IS retreat.

“At the moment they [ISIS] are on the retreat to the northeast of the city, perhaps towards Raqqa or Deir Ezzor,” Phelan noted.

Thursday’s liberation of Palmyra was a “remarkable success,” the chief of Russia's General Staff's operations department, Sergey Rudskoy, said on Friday. He added that IS suffered heavy casualties in the fighting, with over 1,000 fighters killed or injured in action. In addition, terrorist forces lost 19 tanks, 37 armored fighting vehicles, and 98 pickup trucks.

READ MORE: Syrian Army recaptures Palmyra, aided by Russian Air Force – Kremlin

Rudskoy said the Russian Air Force and Special Forces played a vital role in the military operation to retake the ancient city, which was “planned and carried out under the guidance of Russian military advisers.”

The general stressed that no airstrikes were conducted in the vicinity of the ancient Palmyra ruins, adding that Russian demining experts will help Syrian sappers clear Palmyra from IEDs and mines.