The ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which for a long time was under the control of Daesh terrorists, is finally celebrating its liberation. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the civil airport, a real battle is unfolding. Sputnik correspondent Mikhail Alaeddin, at the Palmyra airport along with a Syrian special ops unit, witnessed an operation aimed at eliminating the positions of terrorists and advancing deeper into the desert.
Free Tour of the Airport
According to Alaeddin, the Palmyra airport is literally just a kilometre away from town. The Syrian commander on the spot received orders to arrive at the airfield to assess the situation. The Syrian officer told Alaeddin as they rode in the lead vehicle in a military convoy:
We haven’t yet cleared the direct road from Palmyra to the airport, so we have to detour through the desert.
The airport area resembles a completely flattened concrete field. Almost all the buildings are gone. Only a few concrete hangars once used for military aircraft in the northern part of the airport remain. At present, the fortified structures either serve as shelters for Syrian Arab Army soldiers or as dumps for heavy equipment confiscated from terrorists. The Syrian forces managed to repel the terrorists from the airport a couple of days ago, but realising the strategic significance of the facility, the terrorists once again attacked the government positions and tried to occupy the airport. Then, air assets and artillery came to the rescue. The terrorists approached the airport at night and tried to storm it. However, the soldiers of the special ops group supported the frontline infantry and kicked back the terrorists. The loss of the airport could’ve jeopardised Palmyra’s security once again.
Liberation is Sweet
Meanwhile, in Palmyra itself, the battle raging near the airport wasn’t audible. In the historical centre of the city, more than a hundred people gathered. An aerobatic performance by the Syrian Air Force welcomed senior coalition commanders. The Syrian Minister of Defence expressed gratitude to Russia and to the Russian military for helping liberate Palmyra. Unfortunately, the traditional music at the amphitheatre (played by girls from the Homs music school) wasn’t audible at the airport.
Silence of the Night
After the incident ended, the Syrian special oppers left the airport together with our correspondent. On their way back, they passed some districts where one could still see Daesh flags on buildings and some houses. The senior officer told us:
This is normal; we haven’t yet cleared this quarter, so no one has yet climbed onto the roof of the hotel. As soon as we clear it, we’ll raise the Syrian flag and burn this one.
As the night fell, the army continued its offensive towards the airport to drive the terrorists some twelve kilometres into the desert, in the direction of the city of Sukhn to the northwest. Government forces are also on the offensive in the west, where they’ve liberated oil and gas fields. At the same time, they’re defeating the terrorists in eastern Aleppo Governate, where the army is moving towards Raqqa Governate.
A Matter of Honour
Our correspondent pointed up that the Syrian commanders think that ensuring Palmyra’s security and advancing to the north and northwest of the ancient city is a matter of honour. On Thursday, Syrian forces, backed by the Russian military aircraft operating in Syria, regained control over Palmyra. Daesh first captured Palmyra in May 2015. In the ten months that followed, the brutal group, notorious for destroying pre-Islamic cultural heritage sites, levelled the Temple of Bel, the Temple of Baalshamin, the Monumental Arch, and several tomb towers. They smashed or defaced some of the priceless artefacts on display at a local museum. The Syrian Arab Army, assisted by Russian warplanes and allied forces, took control of Palmyra on 27 March 2016 but lost it on 11 December. Daesh then destroyed a tetrapylon and part of a Roman theatre in the ancient city, using it to carry out mass executions.
7 March 2017
The Syrian Arab Army had a hard choice in December:
- Hold Palmyra, but allow the fighting in Aleppo to drag on, with incalculable damage in the “media war” and continuing civilian casualties
- Withdraw from Palmyra, using the forces to wind up the Aleppo situation
Assad chose to withdraw, to concentrate on Aleppo (a wise military move, with some blowback in the informational war). Once Aleppo fell to government forces, it was relatively easy to retake Palmyra. It was a classic illustration of “one step back, two steps forward”. ISIS has (apparently) lost its American sugar daddies… Obama used them to strike at Russia (Zbig was doing the same thing that he’d done in Afghanistan… using radical Islamists to attack Russia). Has Trump dropped them? We’ll have to see… the CIA and Israel both use ISIS as a client and proxy… they’re not minor players in the Great Game, are they?
Events await development…