Army takes oil fields from IS

BEIRUT – The Syrian army backed by heavy Russian air strikes seized a string of oil wells in south-west Raqqa province on Saturday, as retreating Islamic State militants battle to defend their remaining territory in the country.

State-owned Ikhbariyah television quoted a military source as saying the army had taken 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 southwest of Raqqa province.

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 army and Iranian-backed militias have in the last few months been advancing east of Aleppo city and seizing swathes of territory west of the Euphrates River that militants have pulled out of to defend their de facto capital of Raqqa, where they are now battling US-backed troops inside the city. 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 Zor provinces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

The monitor said the Russian air force intensified its strikes on several targets and towns held by the militants in the area including Uqairbat, a target of Russian cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean at the end of May.

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