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Al Shaer, one of Syria’s largest gas fields, was rocked by powerful explosions on Monday, attributed to the Islamic State. The Islamic State was fighting Syrian government troops on several fronts, including near the ancient city of Palmyra.
The Syrian Army Air Force responded quickly on Tuesday with airstrikes against ISIS positions in a number of provinces, including near the coveted al Shaer gas fields, destroying ISIS terrorists’ vehicles and weaponry, and reportedly killing a number of terrorists in its attempt to reclaim the ISIS-controlled area.
Word of the Monday explosions seemed to coincide with reports of a 4.4 Richter scale earthquake 50 km to the southeast in the city of Palmyra, which was reclaimed from ISIS near the end of March.
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“There were three huge explosions there carried out by ISIS on Monday,” said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He added that the Islamic State was believed to have blown up several of the field’s pumping stations, with no immediate word on casualties.
The fact that this gas field has changed hands twice in a matter of a few weeks is nothing new. The gas field and the city of Palmyra change hands frequently, most notably in July 2014 when the Islamic State briefly took over the gas field, killing hundreds of regime soldiers.
Pro-ISIS social media celebrated Monday’s explosions, saying they had prevented the “enemy” from exploiting what its fighters could not. The group has previously targeted oil and gas fields during its offensive in order to finance its military activities.
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The Monday explosions and Tuesday’s airstrikes were preceded by another attack on Sunday, when an unexpected attack launched by the militants on Syrian army units defending Palmyra ended with two hills overlooking the ancient city falling under the control of the terror group.
Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed government forces had re-seized one of the hilltops just west of the field on Tuesday.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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