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Russia bombs ancient Syrian city of Palmyra

Russian jets have struck the outskirts of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which "Islamic State" (IS) militants captured in May. Moscow says its air assaults in Syria have hit more than 230 targets in recent days.

Russia's defense ministry confirmed that Su-25 jets hit a fortified "Islamic State" (IS) position in the historic city on Monday.

"As a result of a direct strike, a fortification, an underground bunker and anti-aircraft artillery were destroyed," said the defense official, adding that more than 237 IS targets had been hit by Russian fighter jets from the skies over the war-torn country in the past two days.

An activist in the city said the bombing hit an area close to a historic castle overlooking the Roman ruins. He told the Associated Press it was difficult to assess the damage because of the ongoing bombardment.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also confirmed that Russian warplanes had targeted Palmyra on Monday, adding that several strikes hit the city's historic citadel.

Moscow has previously denied it was targeting ancient sites in previous bombing campaigns.

Palmyra is home to world-famous Roman ruins and was one of Syria's most attractive tourist destinations before the nearly 5-year-old conflict began.

Since it

over-ran the city last May, the "Islamic State" group has destroyed a number of its ancient structures,

including the Temple of Bel and the iconic Arc of Triumph, which

UNESCO designated a World Heritage Site.

Attacks stepped up

Elsewhere in Homs province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 10 people had been killed and several others wounded in apparent Russian strikes on Qaryatain, an IS-held town. In Aleppo province, a training camp for foreign fighters was among targets hit.

Moscow began its air assault on IS jihadists at the end of September

, to help troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad fight what it calls "terrorists".

But the US, which is leading a separate coalition bombing campaign against IS, says that Moscow is mainly targeting more moderate groups fighting Assad.

IS fighters moved close to a highway linking the Syrian capital Damascus to the central Homs province on Sunday. The militant group seized the town of Mahin, endangering government supply routes.

mm/jr (AFP, AP)

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