aleppo evacuate
Civilians wait outside a government military police centre to visit their relatives, who were evacuated from the eastern districts of Aleppo and are being prepared to begin their military service, in Aleppo, Syria December 11, 2016. Reuters/Omar Sanadiki

Governor of Homs Talal al-Barazi confirmed on Sunday that the Islamic State recaptured Palmyra. He said that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL) was in full control of the city. Palmyra was recognised by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

The captured city was in full control by ISIL in May 2015 but government forces recaptured it in March 2016. However, on Sunday, the militants fought their way into the town. It has drawn on 4,000 fighters backed by tanks attacking the city and forcing the government troops to retreat to the south of the city.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia claimed that it had repelled an ISIL attack when it launched 64 airstrikes overnight killing 300 militants.

The city was pounded by heavy shelling and air raids with explosions at a rate of more than a minute from midnight Saturday throughout Sunday. Gunfire was also heard in the city.

Palmyra was a major tourist attraction including the nearly 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin and 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph. However, these sites were destroyed by the militants. The government said that the militants also destroyed two Muslim holy sites including a 500-year-old shrine and a tomb where the cousin of Prophet Mohammed was reportedly buried.

Meanwhile, the government troops and its allies advanced in southeast Aleppo. On Sunday, Russian and US officials held a meeting in Geneva about an elusive deal for civilians and fighters to leave the city.

Read: Syria captures 85% of Aleppo from 73%

If the government recaptured all Aleppo's city, it would bring President Bashar al-Assad the biggest victory after nearly six years of civil war. Russia, Iran, Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan support Assad in the Syria war.

There were more than 120,000 civilians who left the city but tens of thousands still remained in the middle of the conflict.