Islamic State militants and Syria's Russian-backed army both claim to have the upper hand in the battle to control the ancient desert city of Palmyra, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be on the cusp of victory over rebels in the beleaguered city of Aleppo. Ashraf Fahim reports.
Islamic State militants and Syria's Russian-backed army have been fighting over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, with both sides claiming the upper hand. Video released by Islamic state showed intense battles. Russia says its jets helped force the militants out of the city center. But the jihadist group says it only briefly retreated and was back in control of the city. Islamic state seized Palmyra in May 2015 and its destruction of some of the city's best-known ruins and killing of a leading archaeologist provoked global outrage. Syrian government forces recaptured the city in March. The loss again of Palmyra would be a serious blow to both Damascus and its ally, Moscow. Islamic State's swift advance on Palmyra late last week suggests how far Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is from regaining full control of Syria, even as he stands on the cusp of victory over rebels in the city of Aleppo.