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Syrian forces push to retake Islamic State-held Palmyra

By Amy R. Connolly
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Syrian forces push to retake Islamic State-held Palmyra
Syrian military forces pushed into Palmyra on Thursday in an attempt to take back the ancient city, held by the Islamic State since May. The ancient temple of Baal Shamin, or "Lord of the Heavens," seen above, was one of many rare artifacts destroyed when the IS took the city. Photo courtesy Syria's department of antiquities and museums

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 24 (UPI) -- Syrian military forces pushed into Palmyra on Thursday in an attempt to take back the ancient city, held by the Islamic State since May.

Backed by allied forces, including Russian airstrikes, the military is moving toward capturing the city where IS militants destroyed priceless artifacts that were once part of a cultural center in the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries. The militant group, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, destroyed a 2,000-year-old temple, among other things.

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State media showed warplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles approaching Palmyra. There has been no independent confirmation of the reports.

Recapturing Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, would be a significant victory for Syria's army. The city is located near Damascus and Deir al-Zour, a strategic crossroads for the IS's travels to coastal areas.

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