Islamic State is thought to be holding sway over half of Syria’s landmass after its seizure of Palmyra, where it has reportedly begun massacring a rebellious tribe and faces no opposition to sacking the city’s ancient ruins.

“There are no forces to stop them [entering the ruins],” Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said. “But the important thing also is they now control 50% of Syria.”

Isis seized Palmyra on Wednesday night after a week-long siege that led to the collapse of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. The militants are drawing closer to his strongholds of Homs and Damascus and are severing supply lines to Deir Ezzor in the east, which faces an overpowering Isis crackdown.

Local activists said Isis had imposed a curfew and was sweeping the city for remnants of Assad’s forces. Isis has also killed members of the Shaitat tribe, which fought alongside the Assad regime in Palmyra and had railed against Isis in Deir Ezzor – a rebellion in which the militant group killed 800 members of the tribe.

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