Syrian army soldiers drive past the Arch of Triumph in the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria in this April 1, 2016 file photo. Reuters/Omar Sanadiki

Russian airstrikes forced Islamic State fighters to retreat to the outskirts of Palmyra on Sunday, a day after they had stormed the ancient city in eastern Syria, a war monitor said.

The militants were now fighting in orchards on the fringe of Palmyra, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said its jets had launched 64 strikes and killed more than 300 militants during the operation, backing up the Syrian army.

Islamic State fighters had gained control of some oil and gas fields around the city during their advance which started on Thursday, the monitor said. They had also been pushing toward the nearby T4 air base — used by Russian forces supporting the Syrian army.

It was not immediately clear who now controlled the fields, including al Mahr and Jazal.

The city had been recaptured from the militants last March, in what was hailed as a major victory for the government and the biggest reversal for Islamic State in Syria since Russia’s intervention, which turned the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.

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