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Russia Steps up Airstrikes as Syrian Army Prepares for Final Assault on Palmyra

Russia steps up its air operations around ISIS-held Palmyra as the Syrian Army and its allies inch closer to the city

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

The limited withdrawal from Syria has not affected Russia's participation in the assault on Palmyra. According to Russia's Defense Ministry, Russian warplanes are now carrying out up to 25 airstrikes a day around Palmyra in support of the Syrian army's offensive. The Syrian army has made steady progress over the last week, and is now within striking range.

Here's a map of the battle lines from March 12:

Over the last week, the Syrian Army and its allies have made significant gains. The most recent map of the situation shows that ISIS is steadily losing ground:

According to al-Masdar News:

The Syrian Armed Forces and their allies have been steadily advancing in the Palmyra (Tadmur) countryside today, thanks in large part to the Russian Air Force’s relentless bombardment of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) defensive positions that were considered impregnable 6 months ago.

As a result of these powerful airstrikes from the Russian Air Force, the Syrian Arab Army’s “Tiger Forces” – backed by the Desert Hawks Brigade, Hezbollah, and Liwaa Imam ‘Ali – have been able to take advantage of ISIS’ misery and capture several small hilltops at Jabal Hayyal’s eastern slopes that border the Qatari Royal Villa.

In addition to their advance around Jabal Hayyal’s eastern slopes, the Tiger Forces and their allies have been applying a lot of pressure on ISIS’ defensive positions at the Palmyra Castle (Qal’at Tadmur), striking this important site with thermobaric missiles to avoid damaging this historical structure.

Although ISIS has been putting up stiff resistance (thanks in part to an intricate tunnel and fortification system), multiple sources confirm that the Syrian army is building up strength and preparing for a final assault on Palmyra. According to reports, the Syrian army is now so close to Palmyra that they are able to see Palmyra airport from one of their positions:

A video, courtesy of al-Masdar News, shows Russian air operations around Palmyra in action:


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