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Monitor: IS 'In Control' Of Syria's Palmyra

Syrian activists say Islamic State fighters (IS) now control almost all of the city of Palmyra, whose ancient ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after government forces abandoned the city.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on May 20 the group had seized almost all of the modern part of the city.

State television said on May 20 that Syrian pro-government fighters withdrew from Palmyra after militants entered its neighborhoods in large numbers.

It said most of the city's civilian population had been evacuated before the withdrawal.

Palmyra, most of which dates back to the first or second century when the region was under Roman rule, lies next to a strategic east-west route.

Syria’s antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told the Reuters news agency that hundreds of statues had been moved from the historic city, but large monuments could not be moved.

Irina Bokova, the head of UNESCO, said she was "deeply concerned" about fighting in Palmyra and called for an "immediate" end to hostilities.

The IS militants, who overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in June 2014, have destroyed several ancient sites in Iraqi territory.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters