DAMASCUS: At least 30 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed during fighting with the Syrian army in areas surrounding the ancient city of Palmyra, a monitor group reported Saturday.
The battles in the vicinity of this millennia-old oasis city have been intensifying in recent days, as the Syrian forces were said to be waging a counter-offensive to recapture Palmyra from the IS.
A total of 12 government troops were also killed during the fighting in Palmyra, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
On Thursday, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said the Syrian forces had launched an offensive to expel the IS group from Palmyra in the eastern countryside of Homs province, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Syrian army was only a few kilometres from the western entrance of Palmyra, after the troops managed to retake around a 15 km area west of the city amid the withdrawal of many IS militants toward the eastern and central parts of the city.
The military operation will continue until the recapture of Palmyra, the TV said, adding that the government forces were attacking from three directions.
Palmyra has the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.
After storming Palmyra, the IS militants blew up the city's military prison and several Islamic tombs.