Syrian state media and opposition activists say heavy fighting is underway between government troops and Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Palmyra, with the two sides exchanging artillery and gunfire.

The historic town in central Syria has been controlled by the extremist Islamic State group since May. The militants have destroyed and blown up some of its most famous archaeological relics. The Syrian army, backed by Russian airstrikes, is pushing to recapture the town.

An unnamed military official cited by state-run news agency SANA said Friday that troops seized the so-called SyriaTel Hill near the Palmyra Citadel. Troops have also captured several hills around the town.

They briefly entered the town the previous day but where pushed back. Fighting is now taking place around the entrances of the town.