Islamic State militants have seized territory near Palmyra, home to famed Roman ruins, according to Syrian opposition activists.
IS seized Palmyra and held it for 10 months before being driven out by Russian-backed Syrian government forces in March.
During their reign, the extremists destroyed a number of 2,000-year-old monuments and artefacts.
IS launched a two-pronged attack on government forces on Thursday, advancing to within eight kilometres (five miles) of the town, said Rami Abdurrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Palmyra Co-ordination Committee, another opposition group, said IS advanced from the south and north, capturing government checkpoints and a number of small villages, and approaching gas fields and grain silos.
The IS-run Aamaq news agency posted a video of four captured government soldiers.