Russian Warplanes Bomb ISIS Near Ancient City Of Palmyra

Russia has continued its bombing campaign in Syria, targeting the area around the ancient city of Palmyra, currently held by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), according to Russian sources.

"Su-25 jets hit a fortified ISIS position in the Tadmur area of Homs province," a statement on the website of Moscow's defence ministry read, using the Arabic name for Palmyra. "As a result of a direct strike, a fortification, an underground bunker and anti-aircraft artillery were destroyed."

Activists said the airstrikes targeted the area around a 13th century castle on a hilltop to the west of Palmyra's Roman-era ruins, according to the BBC. Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed Russian planes had targeted Palmyra on Monday.

The strikes appear to be the first time Russia has attacked ISIS targets near the UNESCO world heritage site, after Moscow denied Syrian state television claims that it hit targets near the ancient city in early October.

ISIS overran Palmyra in May, forcing back the Syrian army from the city. It has since destroyed a number of ancient structures in the city, some that are millennia old, such as the Temple of Bel and the Temple of Baalshamin.

The latest atrocity occurred in October, when a 2,000-year-old monument, known as the Arch of Triumph, was "pulverised" by ISIS. In August, Khaled al-Asaad, the archaeological director of a museum detailing Palmyra's antiquities, was beheaded after he refused to co-operate with the militants.

Russia's decision to enter the conflict in Syria in September has drawn international condemnation, particularly from NATO. The organisation has urged Russia to "immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians", arguing that Russia should focus instead on combating ISIS rather than Syrian rebel groups, some of which are backed by the West.

Russia has stressed that defeating ISIS in Syria is a priority, but has also conceded that other groups in Syria are being targeted.