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The Palmyra offensive of July–August 2015 was a military operation launched during the Syrian Civil War by the Syrian Arab Army in July 2015, in an attempt to recapture the ISIL-held city of Tadmur, known in English as Palmyra.
In late May 2015, ISIL forces captured Palmyra and the surrounding countryside after a large-scale offensive.
Between 15 and 22 June, the Syrian Army recaptured the Jazal oil field, and reopened a transport route from the field towards Syrian government-held cities. The advance placed the Syrian Army 10 kilometers west of Palmyra; however, this was not the start of a large-scale offensive to retake the city. ISIL destroyed, by mining, some of the ruins of ancient Palmyra which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On 8 July 2015, the Syrian Arab Army and National Defense Forces, supported by the Syrian Arab Air Force, began an offensive towards Palmyra and by the next day made advances, positioning themselves 4–5 kilometers from the city. The military seized around a 15 km area, west of Palmyra, and some of the locations they had reportedly captured over the previous 24 hours was Nuzl Hayal and the Tel al Marmala, about 10 km from Palmyra's city center.
On 13 July, the Syrian Army's special forces unit, the Tiger Forces, captured the Ancient Quarries in the northwestern countryside of Palmyra after fierce clashes with ISIL. According to a Syrian Army source, Syrian Arab Army (SAA) units were less than 2 km from the Qassoun Checkpoint, leading to the Qassoun Mountains of Palmyra. Two days later, the SAA and National Defence Forces (NDF) reportedly managed to capture Al-Meshtal and Qasr Al-Hayr in southwestern Palmyra. Over 15 and 16 July, fighting between ISIL and the Tiger Forces moved to the southeast of the Ancient Quarries, while the Syrian Army also reportedly advanced into the Wadi Al-Abyad (White Valley).
Fighting in the Palmyra countryside continued into 20 and 22 July. On 24 July, the SAA resumed operations towards the southern perimeter of the Ancient Quarries. On 26 July, Syrian government troops advanced, capturing some strategic hills that would allow them to survey ISIL forces inside of Palmyra City. On 27 July, the SAA and Hezbollah reportedly captured Palmyra Castle, after a three-hour gunfight. As a result, Syrian government forces were now a mere three kilometers from the ancient city. Footage also showed approximately 300 ISIL combatants fleeing in the direction of their capital, Ar-Raqqah (or Al-Raqqah, or Raqqa). On 1 August, SOHR reported that the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) was still bombing Palmyra.
On 4 August, ISIL launched a counter-offensive, recapturing the territory north of the Ancient Quarries and south of the Jazal Mountains. However, SAA managed to repel the ISIL assault and to recapture most of the lost territory.
On 17 August, ISIL reportedly attacked the area so-called "Triangle of East Homs", which encompasses Wadi Al-Zakarah, Al-Muthlath, Wadi Al-Abyad and the T-4 airbase. According to a pro-government source, the ISIL offensive was checked after 7 hours of fighting. 21 militants were killed and three vehicles were destroyed. The source also reported fighting in the village of Al-Dalat, located near Palmyra. In attempts to push and re-position 2 km from Palmyra, the 67th brigade of the 18th division, along with NDF fighters, killed 13 ISIL fighters in Al-Dalat.
On 28 August, violent clashes between the SAA and ISIL took place in the al-Dawah area, west of Palmyra city.
On 6 September ISIL fighters managed to capture the village of Al-Jazal, near Palmyra, the fate of the surrounding oil fields is unclear.
By 8 September, Syrian Army claimed to have repelled ISIS attack on Jazal Oil Field and recaptured Al-Jazal.
On 13 September, the SAA fully recaptured Jazal and the Talat Al-Sawda hilltop. The SAA had reportedly reached the Talat Al-Deeb hilltop, engaging ISIL. If successful, the SAA would be able to control the road from Palmyra to Jazal.
On 16 September, the army reported it had captured the Jazal Mountains.
SOHR reported on 18 September that the SAAF launched a new series of aerial bomb attacks over Palmyra and Jazal. The attacks reportedly left at least 15 ISIL combatants dead and wounded 120. The increased kill count of ISIL combatants in this attack was attributed to the recent assistance of Russian satellite imagery. This has provided the SAAF with direct targets, enabling fewer, but more effective airstrikes. It also helped the Army take control of the hilltop of Tal SyriaTel (just east of Palmyra city) on 21 September.
On 23 September, the SAA reported that it had surrounded Palmyra while SAAF airstrikes had killed approximately 40 ISIL combatants and destroyed half a dozen armored vehicles two days earlier. This advancement was in great part attributed to the aid of Russian military advisers and satellite imagery that exposed the ISIL movement.
The next day, the SAA captured the strategic Palmyra-Teefor Airbase Road, killing 29 ISIL combatants and destroying 4 ISIL armored vehicles in the process. The SAA were reportedly expecting reinforcements from their “Tiger Force” unit within the next few days, returning from the recently recaptured Jazal Mountains and surrounding oil fields.
SAAF airstrikes continued on 25 September, killing dozens of ISIL fighters.