ISIS 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 ISIS, which has held the desert city for nearly a year.

Palmyra has both symbolic and military value as the site of ancient Roman-era ruins – mostly destroyed by the ultra-hard line Islamist group – and because of its location on a highway linking mainly government-held western Syria to ISIS’s eastern stronghold. […]