Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad stand near their weapons during their offensive to recapture the historic city of Palmyra in this picture provided by SANA on March 24, 2016. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters
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ISIS was under mounting pressure Friday as Syrian troops battled to retake the ancient city of Palmyra and after Iraqi forces began an offensive against the extremist stronghold of Mosul.Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militia advanced to within several hundred meters (yards) of Palmyra's famed ruins, nearly a year after the extremist takeover of the UNESCO world heritage site. The fresh advance in Palmyra came a day after Iraqi troops launched a long-awaited offensive to retake Iraq's second city of Mosul, a key ISIS hub since a lightning offensive by the extremists in June 2014 .Experts have warned that any battle to retake Mosul would be difficult, given the significant number of extremists and civilians in the city and the time ISIS has had to prepare defenses. The focus of Syria's war appears to have shifted to the battle against ISIS in Palmyra, nearly a month after a ceasefire between the army and non-extremist rebels brokered by the United States and Russia came into force.
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