Syrian army seizes hills overlooking IS-held town of Palmyra

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government says its troops have seized highland around Palmyra and are now stationed on hills overlooking the ancient town controlled by the Islamic State group.

Homs governor Talal Barazi says the army has advanced from the west and south of Palmyra and was also closing in on the IS-held town of Qaryatain in central Syria.

"There is continuous progress by the army from all directions," he says, adding that he expected "positive results" over the next few days.

Syrian opposition activists also reported that the army was now approaching the outskirts of Palmyra. Government forces have been backed by intense Russian airstrikes in their advances.

Palmyra, home to famed Roman ruins, has been under the firm control of IS since the extremists captured it in May last year.