Syrian regime seizes oil fields from IS in Raqqa
The Syrian regime backed by Russian air power seized a string of oil wells in south-west Raqqa province on Saturday, state-owned media reported.
According to Ikhbariyah television, a military source said regime forces took control of Wahab, al-Fahd, Dbaysan, al-Qseer, Abu al-Qatat and Abu Qatash oil fields and several other villages in the desert area that lies in the south-west of IS' self-declared "capital", Raqqa city.
The seized oil fields lie south of the town of Rasafa and its oil wells, which the army took last month from the militants in their first major territorial gains inside the province.
The latest gains tighten the army's grip on a bulge of territory stretching from eastern Hama province to eastern Homs and the edge of Raqqa and Deir az-Zor provinces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
The army's next goal is to retake the town of Sukhna, a gateway to the eastern province of Deir az-Zor that borders Iraq and likely to be the militants' last major bastion in Syria if Raqqa falls.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters - have been battling since November 2016 to oust IS from Raqqa province.
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They entered Raqqa city for the first time in June after spending months working to encircle it. SDF forces now control nearly 35 percent of the one-time IS bastion.
IS is also under pressure elsewhere in Syria and in neighbouring Iraq, where it lost its largest stronghold of Mosul this week.
The sharp decline in territory has damaged IS' ability to collect revenue from oil production and smuggling, taxation, confiscation, and other similar activities.
Syria's conflict broke out in March 2011 with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad, whose heavy-handed response turned the situation into a complex six-year bloody war.
World powers including Russia, Turkey, and a US-led global coalition have all been drawn into the war, which has left more than 320,000 people dead.