1359 GMT: The regime has pulled out of the key oil fields east of Mayadin, near the border with Iraq (map). Al Jazeera reports:
Syrian troops withdrew from Omar oil field, one of the last regime positions east of Deir Ezzor city near the Iraqi border, a watchdog said Friday, adding that rebels now control the country's major fields.
"Government troops pulled back on Thursday from the Omar oil field north of the town of Mayadeen after having lost the Conoco gas reserve on November 27," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
The insurgents took control of an oil field for the first time on November 4 when they overran Al-Ward, the most important in the province, the Observatory said.
After also losing control of Al-Jofra field also in November, the army now controls not more than five fields, all located to the west of Deir Ezzor city, the watchdog said.
This is significant for three reasons. First, the regime has now lost the majority of their oil fields, to say nothing of the trade routes they were using to smuggle the oil out. The financial implications are obvious, but if this conflict drags on the regime will also need the oil to power generators, power plants, tanks and other vehicles.
The second reason - the insurgents have already started to sell oil through Iraq and, by some accounts, Turkey. This influx of money will help fuel the revolution, as well as potentially provide revenue to buy more weapons. Speaking of weapons, many of the weapons in the east have already been purchased from Iraq, supplementing the weapons captured from the regime. This is not all about weapons, though. The insurgents, and the people under their care, need food, medicine, and other supplies - to say nothing of fuel for their own generators as winter threatens those affected by this crisis.
The last reason why this is important is that it is yet more confirmation of the regime's incredibly weak military standing in the east. The oil fields, and the Deir Ez Zor airport, are the remaining key locations in regime possession in this province, so if these oil fields have been abandoned it means that Assad's remaining forces know they are in a tactically unwinnable situation.
This was also one of the few locations south of Deir Ez Zor city that remained in regime hands. It seems the stage is now set for the insurgent forces to strike further north.
Once Deir Ez Zor falls, the insurgency will have uncontested access to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of square kilometers of territory. With no significant threat to the east, the insurgents will be able to move to other locations. Their most likely path would bring them northwest, down the road that travels through Al Raqqag and on to Aleppo. If this road falls to insurgents, the Hassakaha governorate would be completely cut off from the rest of Syria, allowing the insurgents to quickly take that area as well.
[link to www.enduringamerica.com