Ancient ruins in Palmyra
Ancient ruins in Palmyra Reuters

Russia's air force on Thursday said it carried out strikes near the Islamic State (ISIS)-held ancient city of Palmyra for the second time this week, claiming its targets were far from Syria's historic sites.

Russian bombers "destroyed a large fortified location of Islamic State militants," including an air-defense gun and a tank, the defense ministry said in a statement quoted by AFP.

It added that it "only strikes the objects of terrorist infrastructure which are at a considerable distance from the architectural monuments" and the target was about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the historic citadel.

Air force planes hit a total of 263 targets in two days, the ministry said. Among other targets was a munitions base near Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province belonging to Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, which received a shipment of anti-tank rockets several days ago, it said.

The Russian air force also hit targets around Palmyra on Monday.

ISIS, which has captured swathes of territory across Iraq and Syria to create a self-styled "caliphate" where it enforces an extreme form of Islamic rule, has destroyed ancient artifacts in Palmyra which it considers to be idolatrous.

In June, Islamic State blew up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which they regarded as pagan and sacrilegious.

ISIS also destroyed the Baal Shamin temple at Palmyra in late August and, a week later, destroyed the Temple Bel in the city, another heritage site.

ISIS has used Palmyra's grand amphitheatre for a massacre in which child members of the group killed 25 Syrian soldiers, execution-style, in front of residents.

Russia is began its airstrikes on Syria on September 30, saying they were primarily targeting Islamic State, though the United States and its allies in a separate coalition say that Moscow is mainly attacking more moderate groups fighting President Bashar Al-Assad's army.

AFP contributed to this report.

Did you find a mistake in the article or inappropriate advertisement? Report to us