Monday 28 March 2016

The Liberation of Palmyra

The NY Times says:

"Syrian Troops Said to Recapture Historic Palmyra From ISIS"

Syrian army retakes Palmyra from ISIS

27 March, 2016
Syrian government forces have retaken the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State. The army now aims to use the desert city as a "launchpad" to expand operations against the terrorist group.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said the victory proves the success of the army's strategy in combating terrorism.
"The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism," he told a French delegation on Sunday, according to Syrian TV.
"Our troops have established full control of the town and are chasing the remainder of the retreating gangs of Islamic State terrorists," the Syrian army's command said in a statement, as quoted by TASS.
A Syrian army officer told RT that preparation for the operation took a little over a month, and involved planned cooperation with the Russian military.
The primary goal was to carry out attacks to retake the heights and regions near Palmyra. Yesterday (Saturday) we managed to seize the ancient Palmyra fortress. Then the preparations to retake Palmyra city itself were carried out. Daesh (IS) terrorists blew up the bridge leading to the fortress. That’s the reason why ground troops under the cover of artillery and tank fire entered the city from the north and freed these districts,” the officer said
A commander of the Desert Falcons unit of the Syrian army told RT that the "military operation to retake Palmyra lasted three days," adding that the "main difficulty was that there were a lot of mines along the roads."
"Today the Syrian Arab Army is clearing the mines," he said
The army general command stated that Palmyra would now become “a launchpad to expand military operations” against the group in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, Reuters reported.
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova welcomed the step to recapture the legendary city from ISIS, saying that jihadist forces had destroyed a lot of the ancient site's monuments. © StringerOperation to free historic Palmyra from ISIS
IS fighters have reportedly retreated from Palmyra – located 215 kilometers (133.5 miles) from the Syrian capital Damascus – to the towns of Sukhnah, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor.
In a statement read on Syrian television, the military command said the recapture of Palmyra marks the beginning of the collapse of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). It said the success proves that the Syrian government and its allies are the only forces capable of defeating terrorism in the country.
The command went on to say that the army and its allies will continue their campaign against IS, Al-Nusra Front, and “other terrorist groups.”
On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Assad on retaking Palmyra from IS. The two held a telephone conversation during which Putin stressed the importance of preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site
Putin added that “Russia’s forces will continue to help the Syrian authorities in their anti-terrorist efforts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that over 80 militants were killed in Russian airstrikes which hit 117 terrorist military facilities in the Palmyra area.
Russian Air Forces carried out 40 sorties to Palmyra’s area within 24 hours,” the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said. It added that eight command center buildings, 12 bases, two tanks, three artillery units, eight vehicles, and six ammunition warehouses were destroyed in the strikes.
A member of the Syrian pro-government forces carries an Islamic State (IS) group flag as he stands on a street in the ancient city of Palmyra on March 27, 2016, after troops recaptured the city from IS jihadists. © AFPPutin congratulates Assad on liberating Palmyra, says Russia to aid in demining ancient city
It was previously reported that Syrian Army forces had advanced into the city on Saturday, with support from Russian airstrikes.
Television footage showed explosions taking place inside Palmyra, with smoke rising from buildings. Tanks and armored vehicles fired from the outskirts of the city.
Liberation of Palmyra is 'turning point' in war against ISIS
The recapture of Palmyra marks the biggest reversal for IS since Russia's intervention into Syria.
The Desert Falcons commander thanked Russia for the victory, noting that Moscow "helped our country and our army against Daesh (ISIS) and its supporters."
Noting the significance of Palmyra, journalist Neil Clark told RT that having control of the city is "incredibly important."
...It's on the main highway, sort of equidistant between Damascus and Deir Ezzor...the Syrian army has [now] got a major boost in clearing IS out of a whole path of Syria, where [IS militants still are]," he said
That thought was echoed by political analyst Talib Ibrahim, who told RT that "the location of Palmyra is key to other [areas]" and that "the Syrian army can [now] go for Raqqa or Deir Ezzor."
"I think this is a real turning point and a very important strategic achievement," he said.
Clark noted that the success came less than six months after the Russian intervention in Syria, calling Moscow's action a "game changer."
Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted “thank you” in Russian following a report of the Syrian government's successful recapture of Palmyra.
The ancient city, seized by IS in May 2015, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to dozens of remarkable monuments of antiquity, and a number of historical sites that have been destroyed by IS jihadists since they captured the city, among which were the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph
On Saturday, the Syrian government’s head of antiquities, Mamoun Abdelkarim, said the authorities would try to restore the historic site
"We will rebuild them with the stones that remain, and with the remaining columns," Abdelkarim told Reuters, adding that his team would "bring life back to Palmyra."
However, Giovanni Boccardi of UNESCO's Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit told RT that it remains unclear what can be restored or rescued.
We are looking at the web and we have seen footage of the city as it looks today, and it looks that there might be even more destruction than what we expected, so it is critical now to be able to go there and to conduct a total assessment as soon as the security conditions will allow," he said.
Any kind of salvaging will have to wait until there is peace on the ground. It will be very complicated,” he said, noting media reports of mine fields.
But international lawyer and author of 'Syria's Endangered Heritage,' Franklin Lamb, told RT that he is optimistic that Palmyra's historic sites can be largely restored.
I predict that between 90 and 95 percent of all the damage that IS has done to Palmyra can be restored” with technology, he said.

Sure, there's going to be piles of rubble and you can't restore every stone the way it was...but you can restore it and that's the primary I'm very optimistic that restoration can be made.”

The Best is Yet to Come: 
Putin Congratulates Assad 
on Palmyra Liberation

Syrian leader Bashar Assad told President Vladimir Putin that the liberation of Palmyra would have been impossible without the Russian Aerospace Forces' assistance. The Russian president told the UNESCO head that Russian forces deployed in Syria would participate in operations to demine the recently liberated city.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday held a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Assad to congratulate him on the liberation of the historic Palmyra city from jihadists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"In a conversation with the Syrian president, Vladimir Putin congratulated his counterpart on the liberation of Palmyra from terrorists by the Syrian military and noted the importance of preservation of this unique historic city for the world culture," Peskov said.

"Putin underlined again that despite the withdrawal of the main contingent of Russian forces from Syria, the Russian military would continue providing assistance to the Syrian authorities in fight against terrorism and liberation of [Syrian] territory from extremist groups," Peskov added.

According to the Kremlin spokesman, "Assad has highly appreciated the aid provided by the Russian Aerospace Forces and noted that the liberation of Palmyra, would have been impossible without Russia's support."

Earlier in the day, the Syrian Armed Forces in cooperation with patriotic militias and supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces completely liberated the historic city of Palmyra from terrorists.

"Putin informed [UNESCO head Irina] Bokova that representatives of the Russian contingent will participate in the demining of the ancient city by an order of the commander-in-chief," Peskov added.

Palmyra had been under the control of Daesh since May 2015. The jihadist group, which is outlawed in many countries, including Russia and the United States, destroyed part of the city, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site

The reactionary NZ Herald repeats the US propaganda position.

Assad has no right to rule, says US

"The Obama Administration maintains President Bashar Assad shouldn't lead Syria any longer, rejecting a Russian claim that the US has changed its position. Photo / AP
27 March, 2016
The Obama Administration maintains President Bashar Assad shouldn't lead Syria any longer, rejecting a Russian claim that the US has changed its position.
Interfax news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying Washington now accepts Moscow's argument that Assad's future shouldn't be open for negotiation right now.
Assad's Russian-backed government and Western-supported rebels recently concluded peace talks and will meet again next month.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said: "Any suggestion that we have changed in any way our view of Assad's future is false. Assad has lost his legitimacy to govern. We haven't changed our view on that."
America softened demands last year for Assad's immediate departure, but still insists he should resign at some point in a political transition process. Russia says outside powers shouldn't try to determine Syria's leadership. Assad has not indicated he will leave power.
At least 250,000 people - and perhaps as many as a half million - have been killed in the five-year civil war, which has spawned Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II and has led to the emergence of Isis.
- AP

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