Syrian rebels seize oil field, town as momentum builds

2013-02-15T00:00:00Z Syrian rebels seize oil field, town as momentum buildsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Syrian rebels captured most of an eastern oil field and stormed a military base in the south, anti-regime activists said Thursday, further chipping away at President Bashar Assad's hold on the country's hinterlands.

Although Assad's regime does not appear on the brink of collapse, rebels seeking his ouster have scored a string of strategic victories over the past week, also seizing a large dam and the defenses around a major airport.

These and other blows have shrunk the portion of the country that Assad effectively governs and could deprive his regime of resources necessary for its survival.

On Thursday, rebels took control of the town of Shadadah along the Euphrates River in eastern Syria, and had seized most of the nearby Jbeysa oil field, one of country's largest, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The conquests came after three days of battles.

Also Thursday, rebels stormed a small military base near the town of al-Sahwa in the southern province of Daraa, near Jordan. The Observatory said at least four fighters were killed in clashes at the base, which rebels had surrounded and shelled for days before launching their raids.

Videos posted online showed rebels chanting in victory as destroyed tanks burned and sent up columns of smoke in the distance.

All videos appeared to be genuine and were consistent with other Associated Press reporting.

Rebels clashed again with government soldiers over control of the main airport in the northern city of Aleppo and on the east and south sides of the capital, Damascus, activists said.

On Wednesday, rebels stormed an army base near the Aleppo airport and the adjacent Nerab military airport. The fighting has prevented traffic to the airports for weeks.

And earlier this week, rebels captured the nation's largest dam, a main source of electricity and irrigation for nearby provinces.

Syria's civil war has posed a problem for the international community. While the U.S. and many Arab and European countries have called on Assad to step down, Russia and China have protected his regime from sanction by the U.N. Security Council. Iran also continues to back Assad.

On Thursday, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague called Syria "the No. 1 destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today." He said the phenomenon will get worse if the violence continues.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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