BEIRUT: The Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS has seized Syria’s main oil and gas fields in Deir al-Zor province bordering Iraq, as regime forces pressed ahead with gains near the city of Aleppo.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based anti-regime group, said “ISIS took control of the Tanak oil field, located in the Sheiytat desert area in the east of Deir al-Zor.”
Earlier the same day, the jihadists seized the major Al-Omar oil field.
They have still not captured the tiny Al-Ward field, which produces barely 200 barrels of oil per day and is in the hands of a local tribe, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said.
ISIS seized Tanak and Al-Omar after rival fighters from the Nusra Front and other rebel groups withdrew, said the Observatory.
In Deir al-Zor, ISIS has taken over nearly all the countryside, its forces bolstered by heavy weapons captured from Iraqi troops fleeing the offensive that it headed.
In January, Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra and other Islamist militias, along with the rebel Free Syria Army, turned their guns on the jihadists as they swept across Syria imposing their hegemony and brutal abuse.
The rebels expelled ISIS from the northeastern Idlib province and much of Aleppo, though the jihadist group has gone on the counter-offensive in Aleppo province.
Friday, it seized the Kurdish villages of Zur Maghar and Bayada near the border with Turkey, the Observatory said.
Abdel-Rahman told AFP that Aleppo city’s rebel-held areas “are now surrounded from all sides, by the regime and by the jihadists they are fighting.”
Aleppo’s rebel areas, mainly in the east, have come under intense, daily air raids since December, leading tens of thousands of residents to flee for the countryside and to Turkey.
The Observatory said that regime forces had made advances this week on the outskirts of eastern Aleppo, threatening rebel supply routes.
State television, meanwhile, said that government forces were now in full control of the Sheikh Najjar industrial sector of northeast Aleppo.
Elsewhere in Syria, the regime air force kept up its air raids Friday against rebel areas, mainly in the southern province of Deraa, Aleppo, Damascus province and Idlib.
Thursday, nine people were killed in a raid on the opposition-held village of Maaret Masirin in Idlib province, the Observatory said.