PHOTO: Harem in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, hit by US airstrikes in November 2014
Civilians in Palmyra in central Syria are trapped without power and facing shortages, 36 hours after the Islamic State captured the historic city as Syrian forces withdrew.
Residents said many people were unable to flee. One worried, “Power is down and we barely have any electricity or water. There is fear among residents and we do not know what to expect next.”
Claims, including a photograph, are circulating that the Islamic State has executed some men. The victims reportedly included members of the al-Sheitat tribe, hundreds of whom were killed by the Islamic State in eastern Syria last autumn.
The civilians — many now living in basements — also face Syrian airstrikes, with reports that hospitals, clinics, and two mosques were targeted and several people killed.
The official line of the Syrian military and State media is that President Assad’s forces evacuated all civilians as they fled on Wednesday. However, residents have said only high-ranking military officers and their families, as well as some “collaborators”, were able to leave. Some speculate that the State media’s false story was a set-up for the regime to claim that it is bombing a city emptied of civilians.
Those remaining — including hundreds of Syrian soldiers — had to face decapitated bodies in the streets and Islamic State warnings to civilians to turn in any troops “or face the same fate” as Assad’s men.
Claimed footage of the Islamic State in Palmyra after the capture of the city:
Local journalists estimate that about 170,000 people remain in Palmyra. The city had a pre-war population of about 80,000, but they have been joined by tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in the last four years.
The Islamic State captured Palmyra, famed for its ruin from the era of the Roman Empire, after a week-long offensive in which they also took gas fields to the east.
A Syrian soldier, on leave from duty in Palmyra, said that fellow troops told him they had run out of ammunition and that he had seen the phootograph of the decapitated body of a friend, the 19-year-old daughter of a Syrian general. One officer radioed to headquarters, “We’re finished.”
Residents said officers fled, leaving civilians and lowly conscript soldiers to fend for themselves. One business owner said he watched militiamen run wildly into orchards, not sure where to retreat.
A “military source”, from the Syrian Army’s Desert Falcons Brigade), declared that reinforcements are mobilizing in Homs Province to help militia retake Palmyra and its airport. He also assures that the army has secured the perimeter of the Tiyas (T-4) airbase near the city.
Islamic State footage of their victory at the desert town of Sukhna, east of Palmyra:
Advancing on other fronts, the Islamic State seized the al-Tanf crossing on the Iraqi border, defeating units of the Syrian Army’s 18th Tank Battalion.
The crossing was the last held by the Assad regime on the frontier.
The Islamic State also reportedly entered Zone 3 of the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, east of Aleppo, with little resistance from regime forces on Thursday night.
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