Palmyra: Syrian troops poised to retake ancient city, state media report

Story highlights

  • ISIS releases a video saying it still controls the city
  • State TV broadcasts images purportedly showing Syrian forces in southwest Palmyra
  • State news reports Syrian troops defeated ISIS in spots near the city

(CNN)Syrian troops have entered the ancient city of Palmyra and are poised to retake it from ISIS militants, Syrian state media reported Thursday.

State TV broadcast images that purportedly show government forces entering the southwestern part of the city, while a TV anchor said the army is "close to announcing that Tadmur" -- another name for the area around Palmyra's historic ruins -- "has been cleared of ISIS terrorists."
ISIS took over the central Syrian city in May, expanding its conquests in the region and showing its contempt for the people and their history.
    By June, the Islamic extremist group began destroying historical sites. The Syrian government said ISIS destroyed two Muslim holy sites: a 500-year-old shrine and a tomb where a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed's cousin was reportedly buried.
    Two months later ISIS destroyed more antiquities, including the 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph that framed the approach to the city and the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin. ISIS also beheaded the antiquities expert who looked after the ruins.
    UNESCO, the U.N. agency that compiles a list of the world's most important cultural and natural sites, called the temple's destruction a war crime.
    Palmyra, in the Homs countryside northeast of Damascus, was a caravan oasis when Romans overtook it in the mid-first century. In the centuries that followed, the area "stood at the crossroads of several civilizations" with its art and architecture mixing Greek, Roman and Persian influences, according to UNESCO.

    ISIS says it's still in control

    After the news that Syrian troops were poised to retake Palmyra, ISIS released a video to prove it still controls the city.
    The video shows the city's deserted streets and then cuts to an ISIS militant sitting on a tank, in an indistinctive desert location, saying the group will defeat any forces that try to enter the city. Also in the video is a panoramic shot of Palmyra's ruined historical site, taken from a distance.
    CNN cannot independently verify the video's authenticity.