ISIS Recaptures Ancient Syrian City of Palmyra

Syria government troops in Palmyra
Syrian government forces march at the ancient historical site of Palmyra ahead of a music concert following its recapture by regime forces from ISIS fighters, May 6. ISIS has recaptured the ancient Syrian city, according to a Syrian official and a monitoring group. Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has recaptured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in the face of Russian air raids that had appeared to force its fighters into retreat, according to officials and a monitoring group.

The extremist group had fought its way back into the city Saturday before the Russian bombardment Sunday.

Talal Barazi, the governor of the Syrian city of Homs, confirmed the ISIS capture of Palmyra, saying that Syrian government forces are on the outskirts of the city in preparation of a new offensive to liberate the city, the BBC reported.

He said "the army is using all means to prevent the terrorists from staying."

The U.K.-based, opposition-leaning Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that uses a network of Syrian sources on the ground, also confirmed ISIS's recapture of Palmyra late Sunday.

The group seized the ancient city in May 2015 from the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian army recaptured the city in March with the support of the Russian air force.

Russia celebrated the liberation of the city with a performance in the city's ampitheater by famous conductor, and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Valery Gergiev.

ISIS's recapture of the city raises questions about the Syrian military's ability to hold the territory that it is clawing back from rebel and extremist groups with the help of Iran and Russia.

After it seized Palmyra in 2015, ISIS proceeded to blow up ancient temples and desecrate thousands of years of history at the UNESCO World Heritage site, sparking international condemnation.

Images released to Newsweek earlier this year by the Directorate of Syrian Antiquities showed the destruction of several of Palmyra's famous Roman structures, such as the Temple of Bel, the Baalshamin Temple and the Arch of Triumph, but also that some of the city's most important archaeological structures had remained untouched. ISIS's recapture of the city will again raise fears that the surviving archaeological wonders in Palmyra could be destroyed by the group that views any structures that pre-date the Islamic faith as idolatrous.