[caption id="attachment_3293" align="alignnone" width="900"]Syrian Army retakes Palmyra Syrian Army burns the Islamic ISIS  flag after successfulyl taking the city of Palmyra[/caption]

Syrian government forces have retaken the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State. The army now aims to use the desert city as a "launchpad" to expand operations against the terrorist group.



Syrian President Bashar Assad said the victory proves the success of the army's strategy in combating terrorism.

"The liberation of the historic city of Palmyra today is an important achievement and another indication of the success of the strategy pursued by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism," he told a French delegation on Sunday, according to Syrian TV.

"Our troops have established full control of the town and are chasing the remainder of the retreating gangs of Islamic State terrorists," the Syrian army's command said in a statement, as quoted by TASS.

A Syrian army officer told RT that preparation for the operation took a little over a month, and involved planned cooperation with the Russian military.

“The primary goal was to carry out attacks to retake the heights and regions near Palmyra. Yesterday (Saturday) we managed to seize the ancient Palmyra fortress. Then the preparations to retake Palmyra city itself were carried out. Daesh (IS) terrorists blew up the bridge leading to the fortress. That’s the reason why ground troops under the cover of artillery and tank fire entered the city from the north and freed these districts,” the officer said.

A commander of the Desert Falcons unit of the Syrian army told RT that the "military operation to retake Palmyra lasted three days," adding that the "main difficulty was that there were a lot of mines along the roads."

"Today the Syrian Arab Army is clearing the mines," he said.

The army general command stated that Palmyra would now become “a launchpad to expand military operations” against the group in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, Reuters reported.

IS fighters have reportedly retreated from Palmyra – located 215 kilometers (133.5 miles) from the Syrian capital Damascus – to the towns of Sukhnah, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor.

In a statement read on Syrian television, the military command said the recapture of Palmyra marks the beginning of the collapse of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). It said the success proves that the Syrian government and its allies are the only forces capable of defeating terrorism in the country.

The command went on to say that the army and its allies will continue their campaign against IS, Al-Nusra Front, and “other terrorist groups.”

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Assad on retaking Palmyra from IS. The two held a telephone conversation during which Putin stressed the importance of preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Putin added that “Russia’s forces will continue to help the Syrian authorities in their anti-terrorist efforts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that over 80 militants were killed in Russian airstrikes which hit 117 terrorist military facilities in the Palmyra area.

“Russian Air Forces carried out 40 sorties to Palmyra’s area within 24 hours,” the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said. It added that eight command center buildings, 12 bases, two tanks, three artillery units, eight vehicles, and six ammunition warehouses were destroyed in the strikes.

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