Reportedly, 'IS launches full-on assault on Palmyra'
The Islamic State launched a two-pronged attack Wednesday on the historic town of Palmyra in the eastern Homs countryside, and is now just 5km northeast of its Roman-era ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [...] The desert town is an ideal location for large regime weapons depots, which are situated in a valley between two large mountains northwest of the town. [...] the regime considers Palmyra the first line of defense against IS attacks originating from the eastern regions of Syria. The town is also a point of defense for the surrounding gas and oil fields, including the Shaer fields, the principal source of gas for the energy-strapped regime. [...] Inside Palmyra, unknown snipers targeted residents fleeing from the northern neighborhoods on Wednesday, reported al-Homsi.The last sentence brings out the issue, these places are not just pretty ruins which contain pretty old things foreign collectors would like to get their hands on, Palmyra itself is today still a major city with thousands of inhabitants. Are collectors and ADCAEA dealers going to "save" them too by no-questions-asked antiquities buying?
Meanwhile, the repression begins, the militants have "executed 26 civilians, including at least 10 by beheading, after accusing them of collaborating with the Syrian regime" after overrunning their villages near Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The map (Coalition for a Democratic Syria), shows ISIL gains in recent months. Source: Revealed - how the threat of ISIS is spreading: Extremist group has DOUBLED the land it controls in just a few months despite more than 800 coalition airstrikes' Mail Online 17 January 2015. Palmyra is the red square I added to the map - an important communication hub.
UPDATE 16th May 2015
At the moment, Syrian government forces are reported to have repelled the ISIL advance and pushed the front back a little ( Kareem Shaheen, 'Isis pulls back from Palmyra but fear of 'cultural atrocity' remains ' Guardian 15 May 2015)