Video released by U.S. military officials Friday showed coalition airstrikes destroying buildings, tanks and military equipment belonging to the Islamic State after the terror group seized land in and around the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.
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The video emerged shortly after ISIS snatched up three Russian surface-to-air missile launchers with four missiles each, two U.S. defense officials told Fox News. The terror group retook the city from Syrian troops last Sunday. The Russian arms had been supplied to the Syrian regime’s army.
The aerial footage showed a series of explosions. In all, the coalition blew up 14 tanks, two tactical vehicles, two ISIS-held buildings and at least three artillery systems northeast of Palmyra along a highway, officials said.
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The top American general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, had told Pentagon reporters Wednesday that if Russia did not destroy the weapons, the U.S. would take action. The 1960s-era Soviet missile launchers have a maximum range of 15 miles and can strike aircraft over 60,000 feet in the air, according to officials.
ISIS had taken over Palmyra last year and the militants spent 10 months in control, blowing up ancient temples and other historic objects. Nine months ago, Russian and Syrian forces regained the city amid much fanfare.
"I think they failed to consolidate their gains and they got distracted by the things they were doing, took their eye off the ball there. The enemy sensed weakness and struck and gained a victory that I think will probably be fleeting," Townsend said. "I think this is probably an embarrassment to them (the Russians)."
On plans to oust ISIS from Raqqa, its Syrian headquarters, Townsend said the coalition trained more than 3,000 Syrian rebel forces, but he would probably need "double or triple" that number to launch the offensive.
He said the additional 203 U.S. troops recently authorized for the Syria fight would primarily serve as trainers and support teams to develop additional fighters for the Syrian Democratic Forces, including Arabs who would be expected to make up the force to hold Raqqa once it’s retaken. The U.S. previously had authorized 300 troops for the Syria operation, so this brings the total to about 500.
Townsend also said he agreed with "ballpark" estimates that put the number of ISIS fighters between 12,000 and 15,000.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.