Syrian Rebels Seize Control of Oil Field : worldleaks
A group of Syrian rebel brigades, including an affiliate of Al Qaeda, seized a large oil and gas field from government forces on Saturday, opposition activists said, further stripping the government of President Bashar –of –Azad of the resources it needs to remain solvent.
Videos posted online showed scores of black-clad rebels walking through a large arch over an entrance to the Omar oil field, rummaging through its buildings and standing atop tanks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the war, said a number of rebel brigades took over the area after an overnight battle and the withdrawal of government troops. Among the groups that took part were the Islam Army, which was formed east of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Two and a half years of civil war in Syria and strict international sanctions have battered the country’s oil sector, once an significant source of government revenue.
Syria’s oil and gas fields are focused in the country’s largely rebel-controlled north and east. Most have been taken over by rebels or Kurdish militias, some of which finance their operations by selling the small amounts of crude they produce or processing it locally into usable gasoline products.
It was unclear whether the field’s production base had been damaged and whether the rebels would be able to maintain control, much less resume production.
On Saturday, a British think tank issued a report saying more than 11,000 children had been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, including hundreds who were shot by snipers or executed after capture and 112 who were tortured.
The report, published by the Oxford Research Group, based its findings on the databases of four Syrian organizations that seek to document the war.
But not all agreed with its findings. Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said many of its numbers appeared to be high.
His organization, which was not cited in the report, has documented the deaths of only 6,490 children as of mid-November, including only about 20 who had been tortured.
He said any documentation of deaths in Syria must navigate efforts by both sides to magnify their enemies’ crimes and whitewash their own.
“Now in Syria we have a huge problem with propaganda, both from the Syrian regime and from the rebels,” he said.
Government forces carried out a series of airstrikes in and around the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, killing more than 40 people, most of them reported by activists to be civilians.
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been separated between government- and rebel-controlled zones for more than a year, although the rebels control the territory north of the city to the Turkish border and have used it to form and manage supplies.
Still, they remain largely helpless against the government’s air power.
Airstrikes in rebel-held parts of the city killed 22 people, including one woman and four children, said the observatory. One strike came out to be aimed at a rebel headquarters but hit a market nearby, it said.
Other airstrikes hit in and near the rebel-held city of Al Bab, killing 22 people, according to the observatory and Bari Abdul-Latif, an anti government activist in Al Bab who was reached via Skype.
Mr. Abdul-Latif said that warplanes stayed in the sky throughout much of the day and that the strikes hit near a school and the headquarters of a local aid organization.
The observatory said at least seven government soldiers were also killed in clashes in Aleppo Province on Saturday.
The Syrian state news media did not remark on the fighting near the oil fields or on the airstrikes in Aleppo Province.
They did report that Syria’s reconciliation minister, Ali Haidar, had survived an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on one of his cars as it drove through a government-controlled area near the Mediterranean coast. Mr. Haidar was not in the car, but his driver was killed.
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