Syria Says Rebels Attack Gas Pipeline

BEIRUT (AP) -
Free Syrian Army fighters and civilians search for bodies under rubble after an air strike by a fighter jet loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo’s al-Marja district Monday. (REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman)

Syria has blamed rebels for blowing up a natural gas pipeline Monday in the country’s oil-rich east, disrupting distribution.

A statement carried by Syria’s state news agency blamed a “terrorist group,” the regime’s description of rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

The news agency said the blast Monday some 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Deir el-Zour caused the loss of around 1.5 million cubic meters of gas. It quoted an Oil Ministry official as saying the station fed electricity plants and a fertilizer factory and that engineers were repairing the leak.

Rebels have repeatedly targeted Syria’s oil infrastructure in an effort to sap government finances. Last week, they reported seizing the al-Tanak oil field, also in eastern Syria.

In Damascus, Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi acknowledged the difficulties to the Cabinet on Monday, blaming them on “unfair” international sanctions on Syria and rebel attacks on infrastructure.

“The armed terrorist groups targeted the productive and service institutions and caused huge damage to the national economy and the daily life of the citizens,” he said.

The war has badly damaged Syria’s economy, weakened its currency and led to shortages and price spikes for many basic goods.

Although Russia and China have vetoed efforts to sanction Syria in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. and European Union have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on Syria.

Rebels have made gains in recent months, though few expect the war to end soon.

An international plan to end the civil war with a ceasefire and the formation of a transitional government has gone nowhere, mostly because both sides still seek a military victory.