BEIRUT – Islamic State fighters killed 26 Syrian soldiers on Monday west of Palmyra, a monitoring group said, after days of advances by government forces backed by Syrian and Russian air cover. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that the Syrian army would soon recapture Palmyra from Islamic State, which has held the
desert city for nearly a year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting took place about 4 km (2 miles) west of Palmyra. It was not possible to independently verify the death toll. Syria’s state news agency SANA said the army and allied forces, backed by the Syrian air force, carried out “concentrated operations” against Islamic State around Palmyra and the Islamic State-held town of al-Qaryatayn, about 100 km further west.