Original by Aleksandr Kots published by RIA Novosti; translation by J.Hawk
Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft destroyed three ISIS vehicle columns attempting to break into Palmyra during the night of May 29/30. According to the Russian MOD, the terrorists were attempting to leave Raqqa which is besieged by Kurdish militia of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and US-led coalition forces.
The terrorists lost over 80 killed, 36 vehicles, 8 fuel tankers, and 8 technicals with mortars and heavy machine guns, according to the MOD.
On Wednesday, the Russian military attacked ISIS positions near Palmyra using Kalibr SLCMs launched from the frigate Admiral Essen and the submarine Krasnodar operating in the Mediterranean. The strike destroyed heavy armor concentrations and munitions depots. According to many military experts, the terrorists are not time and again attempting to seize Palmyra for naught: the ancient city’s geographical location has turned it into a very convenient base for launching attacks in almost any direction. Its capture would give ISIS a major advantage.
We should remember the last time ISIS attempted to attack Palmyra was on May 25, also at night. The column of 40 gun trucks, tanks, and trucks was detected in a timely manner by own reconnaissance on the plans, and then destroyed by Russian bombers. The terrorists made earlier attempts to infiltrate the city using smaller units, but also failed.
The capture of Palmyra is a key phase of this plan. Having taken the city, the militants will be able to move forces eastward toward Deir-es-Zor. SAA forces which are there will find themselves under a heavy siege. The new capital will have to be subjected to a prolonged and grinding assault, in order to expel the militants. Moreover, the terrorists can always retreat from Deir-es-Zor into Iraq which is only 140km away.
Having access to Homs, liberated from ISIS on May 22, 2017, would allow the militants to seize initiative on this part of the front and once again ensconce itself in one of the key populated areas of the country. Northern outskirts of the city are part of one of the four “de-escalation zones” created by a Russia-Turkey-Iran agreement at Astana. If the militants capture one of these zones, it will threaten all the efforts of countries seeking to broker the peace process in Syria.
“One must not allow the fall of Palmyra–five or six key roads meet there,” said the Director of the Military Forecasting Center Anatoliy Tsyganyuk. “The militants would be able to move from here in all directions. This is a central location which they can use as they please. There’s also the political dimension. Taking this city will greatly improve terrorist morale, increase the flow of recruits and financial aid from foreign ‘sponsors’. Bashar al-Assad, in turn, can’t lose Palmyra for the third time. This would be a serious blow to his army’s image.