DAMASCUS: At least 29 people were killed in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo on Saturday as rebels captured a key oilfield in the east of the country, a monitoring group said.
State television meanwhile reported that the national reconciliation minister avoided an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on his car, which he was not riding in at the time.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 29 deaths in several regime air strikes in and around Aleppo, Syria’s second city and onetime commercial hub, which has been divided into regime and rebel enclaves for more than a year.
The Britain-based group, which relies on activists, lawyers and doctors on the ground in Syria, said at least 14 people were killed in Aleppo city’s eastern Tariq al-Bab district.
Another 15 people, including a woman and a child, were killed in four air strikes on the nearby town of Al-Bab and the Tadef area, it said.
More than 120,000 people have been killed since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with protests seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.
Video posted online by Syrian activists showed chaos at the scene of the Tariq al-Bab raids, with dozens of people picking through the rubble of a partly collapsed building and ambulance sirens sounding.
Residents could be seen throwing buckets of water on a charred car still in flames. Elsewhere, the Observatory said rebel groups, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, had seized control of the key Omar oilfield in Deir Ezzor province in the east.
“Fighters from Al-Nusra and other groups have taken the Omar oilfield in Deir Ezzor province after clashes overnight,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
He said government troops had withdrawn from the oilfield, one of Syria’s largest and the last of the country’s eastern oilfields to fall to the rebels.
The army lost the area for the first time in November 2012, but later recaptured it. Video posted online by opposition activists showed fighters milling around an entrance to the oilfield, as others drove a tank said to have been captured from regime forces.
Speaking to the camera, one activist said fighters had seized seven tanks. The opposition took its first oilfield last year. Since then, groups operating in rebel-held territory have begun producing oil for sale on the black market.
International sanctions against Syria have sharply reduced its oil exports, and the 32-month conflict has made even production for domestic consumption increasingly difficult.
State television, meanwhile, reported that National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar escaped an attempted assassination on Saturday that left his driver dead.
The attack took place on the road between Masyaf, in central Hama province, and Qadmus, in the coastal province of Tartus.
State news agency SANA later quoted the minister as saying: “If the intention is to kill me, they will fail. I will continue my mission until I fall as a martyr on the soil of my country.”
Haidar, head of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, was appointed national reconciliation minister by President Bashar al-Assad in June 2012.
He belongs to that part of the opposition which is tolerated by the regime and distances itself from the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.
Born in the city of Hama in 1962, Haidar is an eye specialist. One of his children was shot dead by unidentified men in Hama in May 2012, shortly before he was appointed minister.