Around midnight, a military source informed Al-Masdar News that the Islamic State has largely withdrawn its military forces from Palmyra after pro-government units entered a neighborhood in the western part of the ancient city a few hours ago.
However, preliminary reports suggest that ISIS insurgents have scattered booby traps and mines across the entire city while lone suicidal jihadists strapped with explosive belts remain bogged down inside Palmyra to cover the retreat.
Effectively, the SAA is yet to unleash the bulk of its assault troops on Palmyra due to concerns over casualties. Once daylight breaks on Thursday, Syrian government soldiers are expected to descend upon the city and conduct mopping-up operations.
ISIS’ supposed large-scale retreat from Palmyra contradicts footage released by Amaq Agency hours earlier depicting defiant jihadists:
— Chris Tomson (@TheDaneChris) March 1, 2017
On Wednesday, the SAA liberated the Palmyra crossroad (Palmyra Triangle) and two mountains overlooking Palmyra. The latter advance rendered the city virtually indefensible.
Nevertheless, Amaq Agency reported that two ISIS suicide bombings struck the advancing government troops near the Palmyra Triangle on Wednesday around noon.
Securing the liberation of Palmyra will be the newly formed 5th Legion, elements of the SAA’s 18th Tank Division, Military Shield Forces, Al-Badia branch, Shaitat tribesmen, National Defence Forces, and a contingent of Hezbollah (Lebanese paramilitary).
ISIS recaptured Palmyra in December, 2016 after some 4,000-5,000 militants overran the city and pushed the SAA all the way back to Tiyas Airbase.