Americans say they're also striking ISIS in and around Palmyra benefiting the Syrian-Russian-Hezbollah operation to liberate the town
The town of Palmyra (Tadmor in Arabic) was lost to ISIS in May 2015 after which the group dynamited its 1,500-year old remains of the ancient Palmyra in September.
Since the beginning of this month Syrian army has been engaged in an offensive to retake the town. Progress hass been slow but steady.
The state-run news channel Ikhbariya broadcast images from just outside Palmyra on Thursday and said government fighters had taken over a hotel district in the west.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army had advanced into the hotel district just to the southwest of the city and reached a residential area, after a rapid advance the day before brought the army and its allies right up to its outskirts.
On a map it looks like this:
As seen on the map the Syrian army controls the western approaches of the town, but is likewise probing its southern approaches. Al-Masdar:
Following this imperative advance into the Palmyra Orchards, the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah launched another night operation to bypass ISIS’ defenses and attempt to break into this ancient city’s southern district.
So far, the Syrian Armed Forces and Hezbollah have liberated the western orchards tonight, but they are still facing heavy resistance from the ISIS terrorists at the southern gates of Palmyra and the eastern orchards.
On the downside weather will likely grant ISIS a respite from fighting in the coming days:
Despite the good news, the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies don’t have much time to enter Palmyra because a massive sandstorm is set to hit the Homs Desert on Friday morning.
The sandstorm could prove to be a lifesaver for ISIS because it will temporarily ground the Syrian and Russian air forces, while also creating visibility problems for the Syrian Arab Army.
Also a Russian soldier directing fire of the strike aircraft has been killed in action, apparently after he called in an airstrike on his position to avoid capture by ISIS. TASS:
A serviceman of Russian special forces has heroically died near Syria’s Palmyra, drawing the fire upon himself, an officer from the Russian Hmeimim airbase in Syria said on Thursday.
He said the officer was killed "while performing a special task to direct strikes of Russian warplanes to IS targets near the settlement of Tadmor (Palmyra, Homs province)".
"The officer had been on a combat mission near Palmyra for a week, spotting major facilities of IS terrorists and giving exact coordinates for strikes by Russian warplanes," the officer said.
"The serviceman died heroically, drawing the fire upon himself after he had been spotted by terrorists and surrounded," he said.
This would have been the sixth Russian fatality in Syria, and the third special forces soldiers killed.
One was previously killed during the rescue mission after Turks shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber, and another was earlier this month acknowledged to have been killed in Syria in November, mostly likely likewise while directing strike aircraft fire.
Another noteworthy fact is that United States likewise says it has carried out airstrikes against ISIS around Palmyra:
The U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State said it had also struck targets in and around Palmyra, a rare example of the U.S.-led force attacking an area also under attack by Russian-backed government forces.
This would not only mean that US air force is helping a Syrian-Russian operation but also in this instance fighting on the side of the uber-demonized Hezbollah.