– ISIS driven out of Syria’s ancient Palmyra city
– Russian air force to continue supporting Syrian army offensive
– UN specialist could oversee release of Syrian detainees
– Dozens killed in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast

ISIS driven out of Syria’s ancient Palmyra city
Syrian government forces backed by heavy Russian air support drove the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) out of Palmyra on Sunday, inflicting what the army called a mortal blow. The loss of Palmyra represents one of the biggest setbacks for ISIS. The army general command said that its forces took over the city opening up the huge expanse of desert leading east to the ISIS strongholds of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said clashes continued on the eastern edge of Palmyra, around the prison and airport, but the bulk of ISIS forces had withdrawn and retreated east, leaving the city under President Bashar al-Assad’s control. Russia and Iran along with UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon congratulated Assad on regaining Palmyra and removing ISIS. Russia will be sending troops and equipment later this week to demine the archaeological site. Syrian antiquities experts said Monday they were deeply shocked by the destruction the extremists had carried out inside the town museum, with scores of priceless relics and statues demolished. [Reuters, AFP, NYT, WSJ, 3/28/2016]

Russian air force to continue supporting Syrian army offensive
Russian ground forces did not take part in the Syrian army’s operation to drive ISIS fighters out of the city of Palmyra, but the Russian air force did and it will continue assisting Syrian government troops, the Kremlin said Monday. Meanwhile, Putin continued military withdrawal with three heavy attack helicopters leaving to Moscow’s Hemeimim airbase in Syria for Russia, Russian state TV channel Rossiya-24 reported on Monday. [Reuters, 3/28/2016]

UN specialist could oversee release of Syrian detainees
The United Nations may appoint a specialist to oversee the release of Syrian detainees, and ensure the naming of the detainees does not lead to their harm or to their relatives being attacked. Syrian prisoner exchanges, seen as critical to further confidence-building between the parties, were identified as a priority at last week’s meeting between Vladimir Putin and Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow. They were repeatedly raised at the Geneva peace talks last week, but with little sign of progress. The initial focus will be on women, children, and the injured. It is not clear how many pro-Assad troops have been detained by the opposition because of the difficulties of obtaining accurate figures for missing or imprisoned individuals. An Amnesty International report released in November found that at least 65,116 people had been “forcibly disappeared” since 2011. [Guardian, 3/28/2016]

Dozens killed in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast
A local elected official was killed in southeastern Turkey on Monday after a weekend of violence that also claimed the lives of almost 30 militants and soldiers, according to security sources. Ibrahim Inco, the village leader in Sarioren in Sanliurfa province, was shot after suspected Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants hijacked his car, the sources said. They were fleeing after detonating an explosive targeting a military vehicle. Three soldiers were hurt in the explosion. The military said 25 PKK militants were killed in the towns of Nusaybin, Sirnak, and Yuksekova in clashes over the weekend. [Reuters, 3/28/2016]