Government troops, backed by Russian airstrikes, captured the strategic desert city of Palmyra from Islamic State (IS) on 27 March. In the following weeks IS launched a range of localised offensives throughout Syria. Targets included areas north-east of Aleppo, where on 10 April the group re-captured around ten villages that it had earlier lost to other rebel groups; near Deraa in southern Syria; and to the east of Damascus, where it captured around 300 workers at a cement factory on 7 April (most of whom were later released).
The loss of Palmrya was a significant blow to IS. The city is a strategic road junction connecting Damascus and Homs, which are both largely held by the Government, with IS-held territories to the East, including both Dair al-Zour and parts of western Iraq. In addition, IS has repeatedly featured the city’s Roman ruins in its propaganda material, meaning that its high-profile loss is a substantial blow to the group’s public image.