A monitoring group says that nearly 300 people have been killed in several days of fighting since the Islamic State militant group launched an offensive against Syria's ancient city of Palmyra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on May 17 that 123 soldiers and loyalist militiamen died in the battle, as well as 115 IS fighters and 57 civilians.
The observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said dozens of the civilians had been executed.
The toll came as Syrian government forces pushed IS jihadists back from Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, a day after the fighters had seized the northern part of the modern town.
But the monitoring group said IS fighters were still one kilometer from the archaeological site and its adjacent museum which houses thousands of priceless artifacts.