Liberating Syria’s northern city of Raqqa, a Daesh stronghold, is not a top priority for the Syrian government, even though it is on the list of important objectives, Syrian President Bashar Assad said. He stressed that Raqqa is “no more than a symbol of the Islamic State [Daesh]”, and that “the IS [Daesh] is present everywhere” – near Damascus, in Palmyra, eastern Syria. Priorities are everywhere. And they depend on the military development. But for us everything is important — Raqqa, Idlib, Palmyra”, Assad told French radio station Europe1 in an interview published on Thursday.
The Syrian military has taken a major district in the besieged city of Aleppo but has also retreated from historic Palmyra as extremist Islamic State (IS) fighters have retaken the ancient city. SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said the Syrian Army is now in “full control” of the important district and holds some 90 percent of the parts of the city once held by the opposition fighters. Meanwhile, 200 kilometers to the southeast of Aleppo, IS forces have retaken Palmyra after Syrian troops abandoned their positions in the city. Syrian officials said they had evacuated some 80 percent of the citizens of Palmyra ahead of the withdrawal. Syrian forces had liberated Palmyra from IS militants in March.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the United States’ refusal to cooperate with Russia in fighting terrorism has resulted in ISIS increasing its attacks in Syria. Peskov told journalists on Monday that actual cooperation and military coordination with other states including the US could have led to avoiding attacks like the one that targeted Palmyra, but sadly Washington refuses to cooperate with Moscow in this regard. He asserted that an end will be put to ISIS attacks on Palmyra very soon, adding that ISIS’ attack on Palmyra shows the threat posed by this terror organization, calling on the international community to exert more efforts to liberate Palmyra from terrorists.