With the capture of the ancient city of Palmyra and the town of Al-Tanaf on the border with Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) now controls half of the territory in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Times of Israel reported Friday:
In a new move consolidating its grip in Syria, IS seized on Thursday Al-Tanaf, the last regime-held crossing on the border with Iraq, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. With their gains in Palmyra earlier Thursday, the monitor said the jihadists now control half of Syria’s territory.
The monitor said IS control of Al-Tanaf, known as Al-Walid by Iraqis, means Syrian government forces have lost control over the porous border.
The capture of Palmyra has raised fears that the ancient ruins there could be destroyed by the terror group.
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called Palmyra “the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening.”
According to the Times, troops supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad withdrew from the town after ISIS entered it. ISIS reportedly executed 17 people, accusing them of working for the Assad regime.
Military analyst Michael Pregent observed that ISIS was succeeding with relatively little resistance from Iran, and concluded “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.” Similarly, Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted after the recent fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to ISIS that “Iran looks at this as an opportunity for them to come in with their militias and take over.”
[Photo: BBC / YouTube ]