The Iran nuclear deal and fears about the imminent collapse of the Syrian state have lent urgency to stalled diplomacy.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters have captured the last major oilfield under Syrian government control during deadly clashes over a vast central desert zone, a monitoring group said.
The Jazal field was shut down and clashes were ongoing east of Homs, with casualties reported on both sides, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving dates or more details.
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. It said it killed 25 fighters, including non-Syrian fighters.
“The regime has lost the last oilfield in Syria,” said the Observatory, which tracks violence through a network of sources on the ground.
Jazal is a medium-sized field that lies to the northwest of the rebel-held ancient city of Palmyra, close to a region that holds Syria’s main natural gas fields and multimillion-dollar extraction facilities.
The Observatory also reported heavy clashes between government forces and ISIL in the eastern suburbs of Homs province.
ISIL gaining more territory
The army, which has been fighting to retake the city and surrounding areas since they fell in May, had managed to secure the oil field’s perimeter in June.
The Observatory also said US-led coalition bombing raids in areas in ISIL’s de facto capital of Raqqa had killed at least 16 fighters, including five foreign fighters.
Opposition fighters bombarded the heart of the Syrian capital Damascus and mortars killed at least one civilian and wounded at least 12 others, state television said.
More than 240,000 people have been killed in Syria’s conflict, which began with popular anti-government protests in March 2011 but has evolved into a protracted civil war.
The conflict has seen the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad lose swaths of territory across the country.