Smoke was rising above ancient remains in Palmyra in central Syria days before Islamic State militants announced they had seized full control of the historic city.
The radical group said in a statement posted by followers on Twitter today it was in full charge of Palmyra, increasing fears that Roman-era temples, colonnades and a theatre in the World Heritage site will be destroyed.
In February, Islamist militants in northern Iraq destroyed a priceless collection of statues and sculptures from the ancient Assyrian era.
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State now controls more than half of Syrian territory following four years of civil war.
Clashes in the area since Wednesday (May 20), killed at least 100 pro-government fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Islamic State says it is in complete control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
The militant group said in a statement on Twitter that pro-government defences had collapsed and fighters had now seized the military airport and prison.
A statement said the the retreating forces "left behind a large number of (their) dead" which it said filled the city square.
Earlier, a monitoring group said IS fighters had entered the ancient ruins of Palmyra amid growing fears the group could destroy historical artefacts.
Islamic State militants have entered the ancient ruins of Palmyra after taking control of the Syrian city, monitors say.
Insurgents swept into Palmyra's military air base, prison and intelligence headquarters on Wednesday and were now in the city's ancient sites, Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
However, he said there were so far no reports of destruction of the artefacts so far.
There are fears the group will destroy the historical ruins, which are regarded as "one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world".
Mr Abdulrahman said around 100 pro-Assad fighters had been killed in clashes since Wednesday and forces were now withdrawing.
One of the most important ancient cities in the world is at the mercy of self styled Islamic State forces who are bent on its destruction.
Cultural vandalism is a hallmark of Islamic State occupation, as ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reports:
Air raids from pro-government jets pounded militant positions inside the town of Tadmur - which contains the ancient ruins of Palmyra - earlier today in this video obtained by the Associated Press.
So-called Islamic State militants have reportedly taken control of the whole city of Palmyra, after pro-government forces withdrew from the area.
Soldiers from the pro-government regime have withdrawn from the ancient city of Palmyra, Syrian state television has reported.
Reuters report that state media inside the war-torn country says that the city has fallen to the so-called Islamic State and that militants are now trying to enter ancient monumental sites.
Pro-government fighters say that they only withdrew after securing the safe exit for most of the civilians in the city, according to state TV.
Militants from the so-called Islamic State have reportedly taken control of almost the entire ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the extremists have seized almost all of the historical settlement after defeating pro-government troops.
According to Unesco, the city of Palmyra "contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world."
Islamic State militants have infiltrated the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra forcing thousands of people to evacuate, according to Syrian state television.
The evacuation by Syria's National Defence Forces follows heavy battles in and around the central city, which is home to a Unesco World Heritage site and is also a strategic military location linked by highways to the cities of Homs and Damascus.
Unesco's Director-General Irina Bokova issued a statement which said she was "deeply concerned by the situation at the site of Palmyra".
She added: "The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East, and its civilian population. I reiterate my appeal for an immediate cessation of hostilities at the site.
"I further call on the international community to do everything in its power to protect the affected civilian population and safeguard the unique cultural heritage of Palmyra."
According to Unesco the city of Palmyra "contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world."
A man has been jailed for 21 months after being found guilty of trying to provide a pair of ballistic glasses to a jihadist friend fighting in Syria.
Mohammed Saboor, 25, was on trial at the Old Bailey accused of aiding Omar Hussain after he travelled to the war-torn nation in December 2013.
Prosecutors said the glasses "are clearly of use to someone engaged in warfare, protecting the wearer from shrapnel injuries to the eyes".
Saboor, who is a father of two, was found guilty of the terrorism funding offence after the jury deliberated for 40 minutes.
Hussain had appeared in a BBC Newsnight interview and vowed only to return to the UK "if I wanna go plant a bomb somewhere".
It can now be reported that Hussain told a journalist he was fighting for the return of the "caliphate" and laughed when he confirmed that Islamic State had beheaded three of four people, displaying their heads in the town centre.
A British man was arrested in Turkey while trying to the Syrian border according to media reports.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are urgently looking into reports that a British national has been arrested in Turkey. We stand ready to provide consular assistance.”