Palmyra, the storied ancient city that was among prewar Syria’s leading tourist attractions, swung back under government control on Thursday, state media reported, as soldiers and their allies evicted Islamic State militants who had made a sport out of pilfering the city’s antiquities.
This was the fourth time in the past two years that control of Palmyra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, changed hands between government forces and Islamic State fighters, who vandalized the city’s historic sites and used its famed Roman stone amphitheater for public executions.
The group’s fighters first seized Palmyra in May 2015, routing Iraqi security forces who fled in a chaotic retreat. The fighters were expelled by Syrian forces and their Russian allies a year ago, in what was seen as an important victory by President Bashar al-Assad. But they recaptured Palmyra nine months later when the Syrians and Russians were preoccupied with retaking the northern city of Aleppo, another front in the war.