Syria rebels target oil wells as clashes rage
BEIRUT - The Associated Press
Free Syrian Army fighters, carrying weapons, gather during the declaration of the formation of the South Commando Brigade in Deraa. REUTERS photoHeavy shelling in a neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo sent civilians fleeing for their lives on March 31, and the state news agency accused rebels trying to topple the government of setting fire to three oil wells.
Syria’s civil war has battered the country’s infrastructure and torn its social fabric. After more than two years of conflict, neither President Bashar al-Assad’s regime nor the rebels fighting for his ouster appear close to victory.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said civilians were vacating the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo under heavy shelling by government forces. Rebels took over parts of the neighborhood late last week and were still clashing with al-Assad’s troops who are trying to push them out. The Observatory, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said four people, including two children, were killed in the shelling. In the east, the state news agency, SANA, said rebels had set fire to three oil wells in the province of Deir ez-Zor, causing a daily loss of 4,670 barrels of oil and 52 cubic meters of natural gas. It accused “terrorists,” the government’s term for rebels, of setting the fires after fighting among themselves about how to divide the oil.
SANA said rebels have burned a total of nine wells in recent months. The three set ablaze on March 31 are the only ones still burning.
Meanwhile, a Syrian antiquities official said a historic Jewish synagogue in Damascus has been damaged and looted as clashes between government troops and rebels have consumed the surrounding neighborhood. Maamoun Abdul-Karim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department of the Syrian Culture Ministry, said yesterday that objects from the Jobar Synagogue were stolen last year, but that officials haven’t been able to visit the building for months because rebels control the area.
Activist videos posted online last month show damage to its walls and roof that appears to have come from shelling.