Originally published in CBN News
ISIS now controls more than half of Syrian territory after seizing the village and archaeological site of Palmyra Thursday. The city has long been a major target because of its historic relics and proximity to oil fields.
Syrian government forces say they were no match for ISIS fighters.
“The IS militants have tanks, mortars, missiles, and heavy machine guns,” a Syrian soldier named Gaish said. “Their weapons are advanced.”
Palmyra is northeast of Damascus, Syria’s capital, and far from the major areas controlled by President Bashar al-Assad’s government forces.
Observers in Britain say ISIS has also taken control of the vast majority of Syria’s oil and gas fields, USA Today reports.
The ancient city, home to a vast amount of ancient relics still buried underground, is not far from the main settlement. Some say now that ISIS has control, the jihadists will likely destroy the priceless artifacts.
The group previously destroyed major archaeological sites in Iraq that predate the founding of Islam.
“Our next mission is to conduct military action with surgical precision, since any heavy weapons such as shells launched from planes and tanks can injure civilians,” Gaish explained. “We have been ordered to be very careful when launching strikes on IS.”
According to reports, the Syrian government increased the number of troops in Palmyra to protect the site of the ancient city. But when the fighting began, more than 300 residents reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, helping them to win the city.
The fall of Palmyra marks the first time that ISIS has seized a population center directly from Syria’s military.