On Sunday, there was some rare good news out of war-torn Syria: Syrian forces captured Palmyra, the ancient city originally captured by ISIS in May. The report represents a notable victory for the coalition of forces fighting against ISIS in Syria, particularly in a week that has been rattled with less celebratory reports. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.
The city of Palmyra dates back to some of the oldest civilizations in the world, and its ruins are important landmarks for Muslims, archaeologists, and the Syrian government. ISIS claimed the city last year, including the Arch of Triumph, which once framed the entrance to the city when it was part of the Roman Empire. Aside from destroying the ruins, ISIS also beheaded the local antiquities expert who took care of the historic sites.
Palmyra isn't the only place where ISIS has caused devastating destruction. The extremist group, also known as the Islamic State, has destroyed antiquities in several cities across Iraq and Syria. Palmyra, however, is by far the most talked-about location of this destruction. Sunday's victory for Syrian forces was also a victory for groups that have condemned ISIS' actions in Palmyra, such as the United Nations, which accused ISIS of "war crimes" for its destruction of the historic city.
The victory in Palmyra comes less than a week after the tragic attacks in Brussels that left more than 30 people dead and hundreds more injured. On Tuesday morning, two explosions occurred at Brussels' international airport, and a third took place at a subway station. The attacks were carried about by suicide bombers and accomplices, who were inspired by ISIS. It all happened less than five months after similar attacks in Paris last year, which killed 130 people in a string of coordinated suicide bombings and shootings around the city. ISIS also claimed responsibility for those attacks.
The recent tragedy in Brussels has heightened concerns once again that ISIS has grown powerful beyond its territory in the Middle East. As the threat of terrorism in Europe and around the world remains high, progress in Syria is a welcome headline to the news cycle. Back in December, Iraqi forces claimed a victory over ISIS in Ramadi, a city in western Iraq. The fight against ISIS is clearly far from over, but a victory in Syria has been a long time coming and a much-needed silver lining at the end of a tragic week.