Islamic State (IS) militants seized the last major oilfield under Syrian government control after a series of battles in the country's vast central desert, a group monitoring the conflict said on Monday.
IS fighters reportedly captured the Jazal oilfield, a medium-sized field northwest of the IS-held ancient city of Palmyra, close to a region that holds Syria's main natural gas fields and multi-million-dollar extraction facilities.
The facility is now shut down, and clashes are still ongoing east of Homs, with casualties reported on both sides, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
"The regime has lost the last oilfield in Syria," said SOHR, which tracks the Syrian conflict through a network of sources on the ground.
Syria's army said it had repulsed an attack in the same area, but did not mention Jazal or comment on how much of the country's battered energy infrastructure remained under its sway. The regime said it killed 25 fighters, including non-Syrian jihadists.
Commentators on social media said fighting had surged in the last two to three days, and that IS seized the oilfield on Sunday.
The Syrian army, which has been fighting to retake the Palmyra and surrounding areas since they fell in May, had managed to secure the oil field's perimeter in June.
The SOHR also said US-led coalition bombing raids in areas in the militant's de facto capital of Raqqa had killed at least 16 militants, including five foreign jihadists. Two IS judges who presided over a Sharia court in Raqqa were also reported killed.
Islamist insurgents bombarded the heart of the Syrian capital Damascus over the weekend, and mortars killed at least one civilian and wounded scores, state television said.
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