BEIRUT - Russian warplanes were said to have launched heavy strikes on the Islamic State-held city of Palmyra on Thursday in what may be a prelude to a Syrian government bid to recapture the historic site lost to the jihadist group last May.
Dozens of Islamic State fighters were killed or wounded in the strikes that followed similarly heavy air raids in the Palmyra area on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported.
The attacks add to the pressure on a group that is losing ground to a separate, US-backed campaign by Syrian militia in the northeast, and whose military commander was declared probably dead by US officials on Tuesday.
The group's tactics in Syria appear to reflect the strains, as it turns to suicide missions seemingly aimed at causing maximum casualties rather than sustainable territorial gains.
Islamic State is not included in a cessation of hostilities agreement that has brought about a lull in the war raging in western Syria between rebels aiming to topple President Bashar Assad and the Syrian army backed by the Russian air force.
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