Syrian forces have edged closer to retaking the ancient city of Palmyra after establishing full control over new areas in the central province of Homs and inflicting heavy losses on Daesh terrorists, new reports say.The army recaptured the mountainous al - Hail district and surrounding areas on Tuesday and launched a clean - up operation afterwards, Lebanon ' s al - Ahed news website said. The liberation of the area, which overlooks Palmyra(Tadmur in Arabic), paves the way for retaking the historic city which fell to Daesh last May. " The regime forces are now two kilometers(a little more than a mile) away on the south side and five kilometers(three miles) away on the west side, " Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is affiliated to foreign - backed Syria opposition, said. Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has seen shocking scenes of pillage and looting by Daesh of some of its valuable archaeological areas over the past months. Syrian sources also said two Daesh ringleaders had been killed in a Russian airstrike in Raqqah. They identified them as Abu - Hammam al - Tunisi and Abu Hamzah al - Ansari. Russia launched an air campaign against Daesh and other terrorist groups on September 30,2015 upon a request by the Syrian government. President Vladimir Putin ordered the bulk of Russian military forces to withdraw from Syria on March 14. The Arab country has been gripped by foreign - backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre - war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.