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Jihadist Islamic State seizes control of key Syria oil fields HRW condemns torture, abuse of women in conflict

BEIRUT, July 3, (Agencies): The jihadist Islamic State seized control Thursday of a major Syrian oil field on the Iraqi border, as rival fighters withdrew, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. By seizing the Al-Omar oil field, IS now controls most oil and gas fields in the oil-rich Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, most of whose countryside is also under its control. “IS took control of the Al-Omar oil field,” located north of the strategic town of Mayadeen, also under its control since dawn Thursday, said the Observatory. The capture “comes after (al-Qaeda affiliate) Al-Nusra Front withdrew from the oil field without a fight”, the Britainbased monitor added. Before Syria’s 2011 revolt against President Bashar al-Assad broke out, the oil field produced some 30,000 barrels a day.

In November 2013, Al-Nusra Front and its anti-regime allies took over the field and kept it running, “selling 10,000 barrels a day,” according to the Observatory. IS supporters posted amateur video on YouTube, showing a bearded man wearing black Afghan clothes and a black scarf on his head, identified by the cameraman as Commander Hommam. “We took it (the oil field) over without any fighting. They fled like rats,” the commander says. The footage also shows two signs posted on the road. One reads “the Euphrates Oil Company — Al-Omar Oil Field.” The cameraman shouted: “The Islamic State is here to stay.”

Some rebels initially welcomed IS, then known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), among their ranks as they battled Assad’s forces in their bid to topple his regime. In January, rebels and Al-Nusra Front fighters began turning their guns on IS fighters, whose brutal abuses and quest for hegemony earned them the opposition’s wrath. Women have been the victims of arbitrary arrest, torture, harassment and discrimination at the hands of government and rebel forces in Syria’s three-year conflict, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. The New York-based global rights watchdog, in a report, urged the international community to “hold those responsible for such abuses to account”. “Women have not been spared any aspect of the brutality of the Syrian conflict, but they are not merely passive victims,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at HRW.

The group: “Women have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed and tortured during Syria’s conflict by government forces, pro-government militias and armed groups opposed to the government.” The report is based on interviews with refugee women and service providers in Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of Syrians have sought shelter from the war ravaging their country. “Several of the women told Human Rights Watch that government forces or non-state armed groups had harassed, threatened or detained them because of their peaceful activism, including planning and participating in non-violent demonstrations and providing humanitarian assistance to needy Syrians,” said the group. The United Nations said Thursday it sees no let-up in refugees fleeing warravaged Syria for neighbouring Jordan, and appealed for funds to help the kingdom cope with the influx.

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