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Islamic State militants were fighting government forces near an ancient city which is home to one of Syria's world heritage sites on Thursday, part of a major offensive in central regions by the jihadist group that has destroyed antiquities in Iraq.
Islamic State fighters reached online said the group was shelling an air base near Tadmur, an oasis in the desert north-east of Damascus also known as Palmyra. One of the fighters said it was also attacking areas around the town's prison where some of its members are believed to be held. "The airport is also a major weapons depot. We want these weapons," he said.
Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said the fighting was just one or two km (1 mile) from Tadmur, warning that if the militant group seizes the city, "they will destroy everything that exists there".