Islamic State militants used a break in the US-led coalition’s advance against them in Raqqa to launch offensive in Palmyra, while counting on the fact that Russia will not conduct airstrikes on residential areas, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that the setback shows that terrorists should not be given the opportunity to regroup.
“Seizing on the suspension of active military action near Al-Raqqah till spring by the US and international coalition, Islamic State devoted considerable forces to storm Palmyra,” the ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.
Konashenkov said that the terrorists knew that the Russian Air Force would not conduct airstrikes in Palmyra’s residential areas, and “used that to reinforce their attacks.”
BREAKING: 4,000 ISIS fighters regroup, make new attempt to capture Palmyra, Syria – Reconciliation Center https://t.co/xU0ujT54vr
— RT (@RT_com) December 11, 2016
After arriving “unhampered” in Deir ez-Zor and Al-Raqqah, Syria, from Mosul, Iraq, some 4,000 terrorists armed with heavy weapons moved quickly on Palmyra in tanks and armored vehicles, the defense ministry said.
Over the past couple of days, jihadists have attacked Syrian forces near Palmyra several times, Russia’s military official said, adding that the offensive had been launched from the north, east, and south.
“More than 5,000 militants in total took part in the offensive,” Konashenkov said, stressing that there had not been so many IS fighters near Palmyra until last Thursday. “It is obvious that the terrorists concentrated near Palmyra were sure that the military action [against them] in Al-Raqqah would not renew,” he said, while observing the situation in Palmyra shows that no “break” should be ever given to IS fighters, as they “use it to regroup and strike unexpectedly.”
During the night, IS fighters deployed cars stuffed with explosives and suicide-bombers to break through the Syrian army’s defenses and managed to dig in in Palmyra’s outskirts, the Russian ministry said in its statement.