Saturday 26 March 2016

The western response to the liberation of Palmyra

Western response to liberation of Palmyra is,putting it mildly, schizophrenic

As I have pointed out some parts of the media (like the Guardian) cannot even bear to admit its happening. Other parts (like the Telegraph, below) report it from the point-of-view of ISIS.

Watch the body language of the guy from the State Department.

When I went to search for videos on You Tube there was a big round ZERO from western media - RT, Russian and Syrian media, Press TV is all you'l find.

WOW: State Dept Rep - Syria's army should not liberate Palmyra from ISIS?

The reported victory comes after fierce fighting over the historic town, which fell under Islamic State control in May last year

Syrian government troops have defeated Islamic State militants to recapture the citadel in the town of Palmyra, according to Syrian state media.

State television quoted a military source as saying: "Our armed forces, in co-ordination with the popular defence forces, have taken control of the ancient Palmyra citadel after inflicting many losses in the ranks of the terrorist group Daesh."

The same report said the army has also cut off the main Palmyra-Deir Ezzor highway leading to the Iraqi border.

Earlier on Friday, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency had quoted an unnamed military source as saying that a government army unit, in co-operation with the "popular defence groups", had established control over the Syriatel hill, near Palmyra Castle.

Several other hills around the town have also been captured by the government forces.

Monumental Arch in the historical city of PalmyraPlay video "2000-Year-Old Arch Destroyed By IS"

A Syrian military source was quoted by AFP as saying the army had entered Palmyra from the northwest after taking control of part of the Valley of the Tombs.

"The clashes - which are ongoing - are fierce," he said.

Russian aircraft have continued to support the Syrian military in the area despite Moscow pulling some of its forces out of the country.

And Russia's Interfax news agency reported a Russian special forces soldier was killed near Palmyra last week.

The town is the site of UNESCO-listed temples and relics that dated back thousands of years but many of these have been blown up or damaged by IS since it took over in May.

Only about 15,000 civilians remain - from an original population of 70,000. IS urged them on Thursday to flee in advance of the battle.

The recapture of the town would be a major symbolic victory for Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

It would also be strategically helpful as whoever holds the town also controls the vast desert that stretches from central Syria to its border with Iraq.

For those dedicated to the town's historic value, however, the possible victory raises hopes that some of its monuments can be rebuilt.

Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdel-Karim is one of these people and he spoke during an interview as the Syrian government forces approached the town, saying: "We are determined to bring Palmyra back to life.

"Palmyra is not just Syria’s heritage - it is the world’s heritage and must be shared."

As the army captured the citadel, he said they were also 600 metres from the famous Temple of Bel, but advancing slowly because of mines in the area.

Sky's Diplomatic Editor Dominic Waghorn said that, despite news of the citadel, he had not seen pictures from the centre of the town itself, adding that recapturing the entire town would be "a major strategic blow" for IS, which has lost up to 40% of the territory it had last year.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to work towards a political settlement in Syria, but the future of Mr Assad, who is backed by Moscow, remains an obstacle.

There are fears the Syrian opposition could pull out of peace talks in Geneva unless Mr Assad agrees to step down.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was aiming to restart talks on 9 April.

Islamic State grapples with Assad regime in Palmyra as Iraq begins Mosul offensive

Syrian regime forces advanced into the ancient desert city of Palmyra as Iraqi troops begin what will likely be a long and complex operation to retake country's second largest city

Thousands of Iraqi troops have deployed in recent weeks

24 March, 2016

Isil was under pressure on two fronts last night as Syrian regime forces fought towards the heart of Palmyra and Iraq's military began its long-awaited attempt to retake Mosul.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) ordered the 15,000 remaining civilians in Palmyra to flee as Bashar al-Assad's forces pushed in from the west under the cover of Russian jets.

The regime's progress was reportedly slowed by fierce resistance from jihadist fighters and rings of land mines planted in the path of their advance.

As soldiers fought amid Palmyra's ancient ruins, both sides battled through the media for control of the public narrative.

Syrian state television broadcast footage of government troops apparently near a recaptured hotel. One soldier boasted to Isil: "You will be crushed under the feet of the Syria Arab Army."

The jihadist group responded with video on social media appearing to show its fighters driving unchallenged through residential parts of the city.

A member of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service rests, after being wounded fighting Islamic State militants, in the al-Sajariyah area last month

Palmyra is 120 miles from Deir Ezzor - the nearest city under partial Isil control - and it is unclear where exactly the group expected the city's remaining residents to flee to.

Meanwhile, a Syrian government antiquities official said he was balancing "fear and joy" at the thought of the ancient ruins which may soon be back in government hands.

"I am so happy that the liberation is imminent... and that the nightmare is nearly over, before it is too late, before the total destruction of the ancient city," said Maamoun Abdelkarim.

Isil fighters began destroying the World Heritage site's relics soon after they captured the city in May 2015. Archaeologists have been unable to enter since and the world is yet to learn of the scale of the historical destruction.

Three-hundred miles east of Palmyra, the Iraqi military said it had begun operations aimed at eventually liberating Mosul, the country's second largest city.
Isil has controlled the largely Sunni city for nearly two years, giving its fighters ample time to build defences and set up booby traps for Iraqi forces.

The government offensive, titled "Operation Conquest", is likely to be long and bloody and Iraqi forces will be heavily reliant on US air and artillery support.
Up to 36,000 troops may be needed to clear the city in street-by-street fighting - far more than the Iraqi military currently has deployed in the area.

Iraqi troops dropped their weapons and fled when Isil attacked the city in June 2014 and the new offensive will be a test of their training and resolve.
The operation began with an assault on Isil-held villages east of the city.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters will take a supporting role in the offensive so as not to further inflame tensions with the Sunni population in and around Mosul.

The offensive was announced on Iraqi state-television with news alerts 
accompanied by patriotic music but it could take six months or longer to actually take back the city.

The fighting continued as John Kerry, the US secretary of state, met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss the possibility of a political transition in Syria that could lead to Mr Assad relinquishing power.

The US is trying to gauge whether there is any possibility that Mr Putin could abandon his Syrian ally as part of a deal to end the fighting in Syria.

Syrian opposition negotiators at the Geneva peace talks called on Russia to "seize this moment" and pressure Mr Assad to step aside.

"Without this leverage on the regime we have little hope that anything will happen," a spokeswoman said.

Government negotiators have refused to even discuss the possibility of Mr Assad giving up his post.

The talks in Switzerland have now recessed for the Easter holiday and are expected to resume in April.

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