Syria says three oil and gas facilities hit in possible drone attacks
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Syria says three oil and gas facilities hit in possible drone attacks

No claim of responsibility for near-simultaneous strikes in Homs region, but war monitor says IS likely behind attacks; Syrian oil ministry says some ‘production units’ damaged

In this photo provided by SANA, Syria's state news agency, workers respond to an attack on Homs oil refinery on December 21, 2019 in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP)
In this photo provided by SANA, Syria's state news agency, workers respond to an attack on Homs oil refinery on December 21, 2019 in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP)

Near-simultaneous attacks believed to have been carried out by drones hit three government-run oil and gas installations in central Syria, state TV and the oil ministry said Saturday.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, which targeted the Homs oil refinery — one of only two in the country — as well as two natural gas facilities in different parts of Homs province.

The Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said sleeper cells of the Islamic State jihadist group were probably responsible.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said he believed the attacks were the work of IS, which has proved it remains capable of operating in both government- and Kurdish-held areas despite its loss of the last redoubt of its self-proclaimed caliphate to Kurdish forces in March.

A few hours earlier, IS fighters had attacked an army garrison in a gas facility east of Homs, killing four civilians and 13 troops or militiamen, the Observatory said.

Syria has suffered fuel shortages since earlier this year amid Western sanctions blocking imports, and because most of the country’s oil fields are controlled by Kurdish-led fighters in the country’s east.

State TV said it believes the attacks were carried out by drones and happened at the same time. It said a fire at the Homs oil refinery was soon put under control. The report said the Rayan gas facility and a third installation, also in Homs province, were hit.

Syria’s oil ministry said the attacks damaged some “production units” in the facilities. It said fires were being fought, and that repairs were already underway in some places.

The city of Homs and its suburbs have been fully under Syrian government control since 2017. However, some parts of the province near the border with Jordan remain in rebel hands.

In June, sabotage attacks damaged five underwater pipelines off the Mediterranean coastal town of Banias in Tartous province.

Syria’s oil imports dropped in October 2018 and shortages began in early 2019, largely the result of tighter Western sanctions on Syria and renewed US sanctions on key Syrian ally Iran.

Before the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the country exported around half of the 350,000 barrels of oil it produced per day. Now its production is down to around 24,000 barrels a day, covering only a fraction of domestic needs.

In September, a drone and missile attack in Saudi Arabia hit the world’s largest crude oil processing plant, dramatically cutting into global oil supplies. Saudi Arabia says “Iranian weaponry” was used. Iran denies its weapons were involved.

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