Regime forces make gains against IS in Palmyra
Dozens have died in ongoing battle between Islamic State group militants and Russian-backed Syrian regime forces in the historic town of Palmyra, better known as Tadmur by Syrians.
Regime forces have so far had the upper hand in the offensive to recapture Palmyra from the Islamic State group, according to locals, which has been in the hands of the militants since May 2015.
"In the past few hours, regime forces have made important advances towards the city of al-Qaryatayn after recapturing several hills that were under the control of IS," local activist, Rabea al-Sharq told The New Arab.
"This advance was achieved with support from Russia which intensified its air raids," he added.
Civilians from the city in Homs province were forced to flee as the battle neared. Fighting and regime bombing destroyed almost 60 per cent of residential areas in the al-Qaryatayn area, Sharq said.
The regime's gains comes as the militant group lost 22 per cent of its territories from the start of 2015 onwards. In the past three months, the group has lost 8 percent of its territories in Syria and Iraq, Jane's 360 military analyst reported this weeks.
Financial difficulties as well as increasing US-led coalition and Russian airstrikes, and Kurdish advances have exhausted the militant group, IHS Jane's said.
"The Islamic State is increasingly isolated, and being perceived as in decline."
"Isolation and further military defeats will make it harder for the Islamic State to attract new recruits to Syria from the pool of foreign jihadis," the intelligence website said.
However, a news agency loyal to IS contradicts the reports of loss of key ground in Palmyra.
It stated that the militant organisation had "regained strategic hilltop points in the southwest of al-Qaryatayn after previously losing them".