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Conflict returned to the strategic oil-exploration area of the Golan Heights in Syria on Monday, when an Islamic State (ISIS) affiliated group carried out a series of surprise attacks on moderate rebels holding their positions in several small villages, according to witnesses who spoke to Reuters.
After capturing the towns of Tseel, Sahem al Golan, Adwan and Ten Jamoua, the militant group, who have declared themselves the Khalid Ibn Al Walid Army, now controls an area that bridges Syria and Israel over the Yarmouk River.
"In a surprise attack Islamic State made an attack on positions held by the Free Syrian Army FSA groups which no one expected to happen so fast," Colonel Ismail Ayoub, a Syrian opposition army defector, said.
The FSA and its allies regained control of two towns – Jileen and Heet – after a group called the Southern Front, which answers to a central command based in Jordan, launched a counteroffensive against the invading militants.
Jordanian security forces in the area have been put on high alert, and FSA factions expect to receive weapons and supplies from Amman in the near future.
Last week, ISIS lost control of the Hayan natural gas field in Syria’s central province of Homs following a Syrian army operation to retake the strategic oil and gas area. Syrian military sources cited by media outlets said that mines and explosives planted by ISIS were deactivated after the area was secured.
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ISIS has not confirmed its loss of control over the area, nor have any external forces in this conflict, while reports of the recapture of Hayan originate from Syrian pro-government media.
The Hayan gas plant produced three million cubic meters of gas per day, representing the largest electricity facility in Syria’s southern and central areas. The government’s price tag on this facility, when it was built, was nearly $300 million.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…