Islamic State captures Syrian city of Palmyra

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Thursday Islamic State reportedly completed taking the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria. The victory comes just a few days after the group seized Ramadi, Iraq last weekend.

The victory puts their forces in a position to strike westward toward a number of strategic positions, including Damascus, the capital of Syria, which is connected to Palmyra by a major highway.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in Britain, estimates over half of Syria — by area — is now under Islamic State control. Holding Palmyra also provides them with access to the city’s military bases, airport, and nearby oil fields.

Palmyra is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a variety of ruins, including a Roman colonnaded street. UNESCO has expressed concern for the safety of the ruins now that Islamic State controls the city. The group has previously destroyed ruins and cultural monuments during their military campaigns.

The US strategy in the region has relied on air strikes. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said President Obama is not contemplating a commitment of US forces to combat Islamic State on the ground.