Syria regime launches 15 air raids around Palmyra
BEIRUT // The Syrian government launched at least 15 airstrikes in and around the ancient city of Palymra on Monday, following its fall to ISIL.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least four civilians had been killed in the raids, which were the most intense since the extremists overran the city on Thursday.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said that dozens of people had also been wounded in the raids, and that ISIL was believed to have taken losses when a military security building was hit.
The strikes targeted several areas of the city, including some close to the city’s famed Greco-Roman ruins, a Unesco world heritage site, he said.
A military source confirmed operations were underway in and around Palmyra.
“Military operations, including air raids, are ongoing in the area around Al Suknah, Palmyra, the Arak and Al Hail gas fields and all the roads leading to Palmyra,” he said.
“We are pursuing Daesh wherever they are,” he added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
ISIL has been accused of executing hundreds of people in and around Palmyra since it swept into the oasis city last week after a lightning advance across the desert from its stronghold in the Euphrates Valley to the east.
The Observatory said on Sunday that it had documented the executions of at least 217 people, among them 67 civilians, including 14 children.
Some of those killed had been beheaded, Mr Abdel Rahman said, adding that the extremists had also taken some 600 people prisoner.
Syrian state media said at least 400 civilians had been killed by ISIL in Palmyra, most of them women, children and old men.
The pro-government Al Watan daily reported on Monday that the number of executions had risen to 450.
In the Syrian government stronghold of Latakia, at least four people were killed in a blast on Monday.
It comes amid heightened fears of attacks in the coastal region after a rebel alliance that includes the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra last month seized Jisr Al Shughour in neighbouring Idlib province.
A witness saw flames and a column of smoke rising after hearing what appeared to be an explosion in the Mar Taqla neighbourhood.
Residents said those killed were a father and his son and daughter, along with their neighbour.
Latakia province is a bastion of president Bashar Al Assad’s regime and home to his ancestral village Qardaha.
The region has largely been spared the worst of the violence that has wracked the rest of the country.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: May 25, 2015 04:00 AM