Today the Islamic State again won a major battle, this time in Syria.
After being pushed out of some neighborhoods of the ancient town of Palmyra on Monday, Islamic State fighters now control almost all of Palmyra after violent clashes with Assad’s forces and its Shiite allies, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported an hour ago.
Syrian state television reported earlier this evening that Assad’s forces were battling large groups of ISIS fighters and citizens of Palmyra were evacuated.
The BBC reported that Syria’s head of antiquities, Maamoun Abdul Karim, said the world has the responsibility to save Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Known as Tadmor in the Bible, tradition holds the city was first fortified by the Israelite King Solomon over 3,000 years ago.
Hundreds of statues have been moved to safety, but large monuments could not be moved.
IS militants have ransacked and demolished several ancient sites that predate Islam in Iraq, including Hatra and Nimrud, leading to fears that it might attempt to damage or destroy Palmyra.
In southwest Syria, ISIS is still trying to set up camp in the vicinity of Kuneitra, close to the Israeli border. Israeli news radio station Reshet Beth reported today that two days ago, the Free Syrian Army, in cooperation with the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra, overpowered fighters of the Islamic State affiliate Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigades. This was the second time in a month Islamic State fighters were driven out of the area.
Over the last two weeks, a number of mortar shells landed in Israeli territory on the Golan Heights, but this time Israel chose not to respond in order to avoid undermining the effort to drive out ISIS from the area.
The fighting against ISIS on the Golan Heights is solely carried out by the Free Syrian Army, which is backed by the West and reportedly receives aid from Israel and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which declared war on the Islamic State last week. Israeli defense officials claim the fighters of al-Nusra on the Golan Heights are simply local residents who joined the organization to benefit from the logistical and financial support it offers them.
Elsewhere in Syria, ISIS last week launched an offensive, supported by multiple suicide operations, in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor against President Assad’s regime holdouts at the military air base.
Islamic State also recently clashed with Syrian rebels and the regime in the eastern countryside of Aleppo and the provinces of Homs and Hama.
The Islamic State’s gains in Iraq are not confined to Ramadi. The group has advanced deep into the Baiji oil refinery, the largest in the country. Islamic State has, since the fall of Ramadi, pushed on with an attack on the town of Khalidiya. If ISIS succeeds to seize the town, it will provide the necessary territorial depth to advance on Baghdad.
It is clear from all these developments that the U.S. policy of airstrikes and a sporadic ground action to take out an ISIS commander has failed. It will never be enough to stop the Islamic State from taking over more territory in Iraq and Syria because this strategy is allowing the group immense space for planning, maneuvering, and redeployment.
The White House, however, insists its overall Iraq policy is a success.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth