Activists say suspected Russian jets hit Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, held by IS

Suspected Russian warplanes bombed the outskirts of Islamic State-held Palmyra on Monday, sending smoke rising out of an area that includes a historic castle overlooking the Syrian city's Roman ruins, activists said.

BEIRUT — Suspected Russian warplanes bombed the outskirts of Islamic State-held Palmyra on Monday, sending smoke rising out of an area that includes a historic castle overlooking the Syrian city’s Roman ruins, activists said.

An activist in Palmyra who goes by the name Nasser al-Thaer said at least eight airstrikes struck the area of the Islamic-era castle, sending smoke and clouds of dust rising from the hill where the castle is located. An earlier round of airstrikes on Sunday hit behind the castle, al-Thaer told The Associated Press in a series of telephone messages.

He said it was difficult to assess damage because of the ongoing airstrikes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 suspected Russian airstrikes targeted the castle area in Palmyra, causing damage. The group, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, did not provide further details.

Palmyra, seized by the IS group in May, is home to world-famous Roman ruins and was one of Syria’s most attractive tourist destinations. The Islamic State group has destroyed a number of its renowned sites, including the Temple of Bel and the iconic Arc of Triumph, because it believes ancient artifacts promote idolatry.

Activists also reported suspected Russian airstrikes on a nearby town, Qaryatain, which was seized by IS fighters in August. The Observatory said at least 10 people were killed in the central town. The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, said at least 15 civilians were killed after the airstrikes hit a bread distribution centre.

There was no immediate comment from Russian officials. In comments to the Syrian state news agency SANA, a military official said the Russian Air Force, in co-operation with the Syrian Air Force, carried out 131 sorties which resulted in destroying 237 terrorist targets during the past 48 hours, including “destroying fortified bases, shelters, and a heavy machinegun sites used by (IS) in the surroundings of Palmyra.”

The airstrikes come a day after Islamic State fighters expanded their presence in the central Homs province. IS fighters seized the town of Mahin, east of Qaryatain, on Sunday, and attacked the majority-Christian town of Sadad. The new expansion brings the IS group closer to a highway linking Damascus to the central Homs province, threatening to endanger government supply routes.

IS strongholds lie in the northern Aleppo province and the eastern Raqqa, Deir el-Zour and Hassakeh provinces. Beyond its presence in central Palmyra, a city that in ancient times served as a caravan route between the Roman Empire and South Asia, the group has a limited presence in the central Hama province and on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.

Russia has said its air campaign is aimed at helping the Syrian government defeat the IS group and other “terrorists,” but many of its airstrikes have hit Syrian rebel groups and areas where IS is not present.

Also on Monday, the IS group claimed responsibility for last week’s slaying of two Syrian activists in Turkey.

Ibrahim Abdul-Qadir and Fares Hamadi were found dead in an apartment in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa on Friday. Abdul-Qader was a founding member of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a collective of activists who document the Islamic State group’s atrocities in its de facto Syrian capital. Both men are from Raqqa.

A video posted on social media warns “apostates” that “the arm of the Islamic State will reach you, wherever you are.” The video shows Hamadi’s body, with his throat slit, in a dark room. Abdul-Qadir was not shown. The video does not make clear whether it was shot in Sanliurfa. It’s unclear when the two were killed.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read