McClatchy reports: Extremist fighters of the Islamic State, already in control of a third of Iraqi territory, are on the attack in Syria, where they’ve seized more oil fields, facilitated the Assad regime’s advance in Aleppo and started a new offensive against Kurds, Syrian opposition figures say.
The Islamic State now controls more than 35 percent of Syrian territory, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based pro-rebel group, reported Friday. Its holdings include nearly all of Syria’s oil and gas fields.
The latest gain of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” was the seizure Thursday of the oil field in the desert at Palmyra, after the takeover of the country’s biggest oil fields, in Deir el Zour in eastern Syria, earlier in the week.
The Assad regime still controls the military airport and parts of Deir el Zour, but there are no signs that it’s challenging the Islamic State or vice versa, a kind of coexistence seen in many parts of northern and eastern Syria.
It’s in Aleppo that the regime owes a major debt to the Islamic State, according to senior aides in the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition. President Bashar Assad’s forces captured the industrial zone in the northeast of the city earlier this month by “carpet bombing” with air-to-ground missiles, bombs and artillery, according to Monzer Akbik, the senior aide to Ahmad Jarba, the outgoing president of the anti-government coalition.
The advance was facilitated by Islamic State forces, which allowed it to proceed unopposed. “No one fired a bullet at the advancing forces as they moved through villages” held by the group, said Hussam al Marie, a spokesman for Free Syrian Army rebel troops in northern Syria. “And the regime did not fire a bullet at IS.” [Continue reading…]