The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, tried the citizens of Syria's Palmyra in makeshift courts, executing a number of them for allegedly defying the jihadists' ultraconservative codes, according to new details about the war-torn area published by BBC News Friday.
The list of crimes for which residents of the ancient city such as "Ali," "Moustafa" and "Layla" were sentenced to death included "spreading corruption" and "turning back on Islam," according to ISIS court documents found in the basement of a ruined building. Signs bearing the hardline Sunni Muslim militants' insignia and graffiti bearing their slogans were also discovered throughout Syria's so-called "pearl of the desert." where ISIS defaced and destroyed numerous ancient Roman Empire-era artifacts.
The Syrian army dislodged ISIS from the city earlier this month for the second time. Days after the fierce battle, in which Syrian troops, backed by Russia and pro-government militias, managed to oust ISIS, an RT news team found the site littered with the corpses of ISIS fighters and their victims. A number had been executed, including children and soldiers whose bodies showed signs of decapitation and mutilation.
ISIS previously gained control of Palmyra in May 2015 after a brutal rise among the ranks of the various rebel groups that have attempted to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011. ISIS overpowered the Syrian army, which was already beleaguered from four years of conflict with insurgent groups across the country, and absorbed the city into its so-called caliphate. The Syrian army managed to retake the city nearly a year later in March 2016, the beginning of a series of major victories for the Syrian government.
As the Syrian government drove rebels back across the country, it concentrated its resources later that year to expelling opposition forces from the northern city of Aleppo. The large-scale operation to retake Aleppo in December was perhaps Assad's biggest victory throughout the conflict, but it came at the cost of Palmyra falling back into ISIS' hands. The second time around, ISIS demolished major archeological sites and slaughtered dozens on the ancient Roman stages where the Russian and Syrian orchestras had performed victory concerts for crowds earlier that year.
ISIS has since experienced significant losses across the country at the hands of the Russia-backed Syrian army, U.S. and Kurd-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels. In Palmyra, Syrian troops and their allies repelled Thursday attacks by ISIS and continued to push east toward the besieged city of Deir al-Zour, according to pro-government outlet Al Masdr News. This offensive coincided with efforts to counter jihadist rebel assaults in Damascus and Hama.
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