Just five days ago, the internationally outlawed militant group had taken hold of Iraqi city Ramadi. On Wednesday, IS militants stormed across Palmyra and took hold of the city, according to Syrian state media and local observers. The historic city is home to one of the world’s most ancient landmarks, including Tadmur Prison, where many Syrian dissidents have been imprisoned over the years.
However, the strategic importance of the desert city cannot be understated for the simple fact that Palmyra sits on multiple gas field and a network of roads that connect central Syria to all parts of the country. Islamic State militants have so far been on a rampage, causing destruction and looting all towns and villages that they take hold of. IS has also caused significant damage to ancient sites and sculptures, terming them as forms of idolatry.
“The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East,” Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, said in a statement Wednesday.
The scene was chaotic, as described by local residents, when the militants took hold of the city. Museum workers frantically packing their collections before fleeing. Police and soldiers fled from the scene as the wounded struggled to reach hospitals. The capture of Palmyra is seen as an important victory for IS, who had suffered a setback two months ago when they were driven out by Iraqi forces from the important city of Tikrit.
The fall of Palmyra will cause trouble for President Barrack Obama, whose administration is seen as failed to contain the IS threat in Syria and Iraq.