Russian fighter jets have continued to carry out intense air raids in Syria in support of forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad after Moscow said it had begun withdrawing its forces from the country.

Syrian government forces on Tuesday advanced towards the historic city of Palmyra under “heavy Russian air cover”, according to Al-Manar – a television station belonging to Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside the Syrian president’s regime.

The reports of Russian air involvement follow Monday’s surprise Kremlin announcement about troop withdrawal from Syria.

Palmyra was seized last summer by Islamic State, which destroyed many of the city’s monumental ruins. The renewed offensive in the area came as Russian warplanes began leaving Syria following a six-month campaign that was crucial in halting the momentum of opposition fighters and cementing Assad’s rule in the country’s western provinces.

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