Gas fields a strategic prize for regime, Islamic State
The regime sent reinforcements to the Shaer gas fields in eastern Homs province after heavy fighting with the Islamic State on Monday as both sides battle for control of the strategic area, reported the pro-opposition news agency Syria Mubasher Tuesday.
The Shaer gas fields, located near the historic ruins of Palmyra, are the principal source of gas for the energy-strapped regime.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported Monday’s fighting, saying that the number of dead could not be confirmed.
Syrian army personnel managed to pull out several bodies of its soldiers from the fighting over the weekend, eyewitnesses told Syria Mubasher.
The Islamic State and the regime have repeatedly exchanged control over the gas fields since IS renewed its assault on the area in the beginning of November.
WFP suspends food assistance to 1.7 million refugees
The World Food Program (WFP) announced on Monday the suspension of its food-voucher program supporting approximately 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries due to a funding shortfall.
The WFP needs an additional $64 million in order to resume operations in December, the agency said in a statement.
The suspension of the voucher program is slated to impact not just immediate beneficiaries but their host countries as well.
“A suspension of WFP food assistance will endanger the health and safety of these refugees and will potentially cause further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighboring host countries,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
A WFP official told Syria Direct in October that suspending the voucher program will have a particular impact on refugee children.
“If we can’t give people the basic food assistance…[there will be] more children coming out of school [to work], probably more children begging,” said Jonathan Campbell, the WFP’s emergency coordinator for the Syria refugee operation in Jordan.
“We’ve also been talking to families about stopping the assistance, and a large number, a very large number, are saying ‘we’ll have to go back to Syria.’”
IS attacks regime forces in Deir e-Zor
The Islamic State targeted the regime-controlled Deir e-Zor military airport with missile fire and detonated a car bomb in the nearby industrial neighborhood Monday, reported a number of pro-opposition news agencies.
While IS controls most of Deir e-Zor city, regime forces are firmly entrenched just south of the provincial capital, where the military airport and industrial neighborhood are located.
IS followed the car explosion by attempting to invade the industrial neighborhood, resulting in gunfire between IS and regime fighters, said the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
IS has been unable to dislodge the regime from its positions in Deir e-Zor city, despite ruling over most of the oil-rich, eastern province.
Deir e-Zor city on Monday. Photo courtesy of @hothifh86.
Nusra, Lebanon threaten each other with prisoners
Rebels in the Qalamoun Mountains captured five regime-affiliated soldiers Monday in an ambush while executing another accused of detonating a car bomb, reported pro-opposition Orient News.
The captured soldiers included three fighters from the National Defense Forces, one from the Syrian army, and one from Hezbullah.
The executed captive had been accused of detonating a car bomb in front of a mosque in the Rankus foothills, killing 60 FSA soldiers, according to pro-opposition Syrian Reporter.
In related news, Jabhat a-Nusra threatened to execute captured Lebanese soldier Ali al-Bazal Monday night, reported pro-regime al-Hadath News, then appeared not to carry out the execution.
Lebanese Major General Abbas Ibrahim responded that same night, in comments widely circulated in the Lebanese press, that if Nusra made good on their threat, Lebanese forces would execute female “terrorist” prisoner Jamana Hameed, whose release Nusra is demanding.
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