IS militants re-enter Syria’s historic Palmyra

BEIRUT — Islamic State militants re-entered the historic city of Palmyra in central Syria on Saturday for the first time since they were expelled by Syrian and Russian forces nine months ago.

The activist-run Palmyra Coordination network said the militants had nearly encircled the city and entered its northern and northwestern neighborhoods. The group, which maintains contacts inside the city, said IS fighters were approaching the city’s UNESCO heritage site as well.

Osama al-Khatib said government soldiers were fleeing Palmyra.

“The army as an institution has dissolved,” he said. Some soldiers and militiamen remain in the city, along with 120 families who have not been able to leave, Khatib said. He spoke to The Associated Press from Gaziantep, Turkey.

The dramatic reversal in Palmyra comes days after IS militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul launched a major counterattack that surprised Iraqi soldiers, killing at least 20 and halting their advance.