Photo: AP/SANA

Syrian government forces have reclaimed Palmyra from the Islamic State, the Associated Press reports. ISIS has held the ancient city since May.

Hundreds of militants were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an international monitoring group, and while fighting continued in a few districts, and at a military prison, most of the desert oasis city had been retaken. From the AP:

The city known to Syrians as the “Bride of the Desert” is famous for its 2,000-year-old ruins that once drew tens of thousands of visitors each year before IS destroyed many of the monuments. The extent of the destruction remained unclear. Initial footage on Syrian TV showed widespread rubble and shattered statues. But Palmyra’s grand colonnades appeared to be in relatively good condition.

The government forces were supported by Lebanese militias and Russian air power. The Islamic State now faces pressure on several fronts as Kurdish ground forces advance on its territory in Syria’s north and government forces have a new path to its de facto capital, Raqqa, and the contested eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

International airstrikes have pounded IS territory, killing two top leaders in recent weeks, according to the Pentagon. Those strikes have also inflicted dozens of civilian casualties.

In a statement, President Bashar al-Assad said the victory was “an important achievement and new evidence of the effectiveness of the strategy followed by the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism.”

According to the New York Times, Syrian state television covered the three-weeks of fighting leading up to the Unesco World Heritage site’s recapture closely, and aired footage of government soldiers celebrating amongst the ruins on Sunday.

“The government wants through this operation to win the favor of Western nations by fighting against terrorism, while obscuring its responsibility as providing the reasons for the spread of terror,” said Khaled Nasser, a member of the opposition coalition. Bashar argues that his government is the only proper defense in Syria against the Islamic State.