DAMASCUS, March 25 (Xinhua) --The Syrian army fully captured the ancient citadel of the millennia-old oasis city of Palmyra on Friday, following intense battles against the Islamic State (IS) group, state news agency SANA reported.
The military forces captured the citadel after dealing heavy blows to the IS militants, who overran the city and raised their flag over the citadel last May, SANA said, citing a military source.
Meanwhile, pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said the IS militants withdrew on Friday from the ancient citadel of the historical city of Palmyra in central Syria to another district in that city as a result of the wide-scale offensive of the Syrian army.
The IS militants withdrew from the ancient citadel of Palmyra toward the al-Amiriyeh district in that oasis city in the eastern countryside of the central province of Homs, said the report, adding that the terror group had tried to bring in reinforcements from its strongholds in the northern province of al-Raqqa, but the Syrian army struck the backup forces of the IS.
The Syrian military forces are now combing areas between the hills and the ancient citadel of Palmyra in preparation for their entry, said the report, adding that the Syrian army also cut off the IS supply line between Palmyra and the town of Qaryatain in Homs countryside.
The battles between the IS and the Syrian army are so intense in Palmyra, the TV noted.
Meanwhile, the report said the Syrian army is advancing in Palmyra under the air cover of the Russian air force.
The fresh progress came after the Syrian army recaptured several areas west of Palmyra, said the report, adding that the army and its allies are less than one kilometers from central Palmyra.
Under the heavy shelling, the IS militants started moving their families toward the eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
A day earlier, the state-run Alekhabria TV said the military forces started entering the northern district of Palmyra, followed by the bomb squads, which have started dismantling the mines and explosive devices planted by the IS.
The Syrian army reached the entrance of Palmyra on Thursday, just hours after the government forces captured the al-Hayaleh mountain near the city, said the TV, adding that the infantry forces stormed IS fortifications in the northern districts of Palmyra.
Due to the nature of the war in Palmyra in the Syrian desert, the Syrian army used special tactics, such as the camouflaged armored vehicles and motorcycles amid heavy shelling on the IS positions, the TV said.
The Syrian army will retake Palmyra within the next few hours, the TV said, adding that the IS militants are fleeing the city en masse, possibly to the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, much of which under the IS control.
Since capturing it last May, the terror-labeled IS group destroyed the city's notorious military prison and several Islamic tombs.
The IS also put on public executions of soldiers and people accused of working for the government.
Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.
Syria has many prehistoric, Greek, Byzantine and Islamic heritages. Before the crisis, Syria had attracted many multinational archaeological missions coming for searching new clues of historical facts on the development of civilizations.