Syria Jet
A Syrian Air Force fighter plane fires a rocket during an air strike north of Aleppo in SyriaReuters

The centrally located Syrian town of Palmyra witnessed some of the heaviest air strikes by government forces on Friday, 18 September, since Islamic State (Isis) militants seized the ancient town on 10 May this year. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said close to 25 air strikes have left at least 26 people dead which included 12 members of the jihadist group.

The air strikes came a day after the Syrian army carried out heavy air raids in the northern city of Raqqa, an IS hotbed, in which close to 18 jihadists and civilians were killed. Palmyra came under the spotlight in May when IS militants after taking control of the town took no time in destroying the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, one of Middle East's most important archaeological sites.

In August, Palmyra's Temple of Baalshami dating back to the Roman era was demolished. The demolitions were part of an IS campaign to eradicate anything it viewed as un-Islamic including artefacts, monuments and historical sites.

Again, in August, the militant group beheaded one of Syria's prominent antiquities scholars, Khalid Asaad, in a Palmyra museum courtyard and hung his body from an ancient column. His crime – he relocated antiquities in Palmyra as IS closed in on the city because of fears that the militants would destroy the site.

Military backing for Syrian government

Meanwhile, Russia and US defence chiefs have held talks on providing military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. US officials confirmed that Russia, a close ally of Assad, had sent fighter jets to Syria to intensify its efforts in helping the government there.

Even though the Obama-led administration opposes Moscow's support for the Syrian president, seeing him as the prime catalyst of the civil war, they realise that IS is a common threat. Russia has been trying to convince the West on the need to work with Syria in this effort.

Many other countries including the UK, France and Australia have come forward to provide military backing to Syria. Recently, Australian fighter jets carried out three air strikes against IS in Syria including one on an oil collection point, another on an IS tactical unit and a third on an IS armoured personnel carrier.