By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans
After launcing a renewed offensive on Shaer, near Homs and Palmyra, the Islamic State is once again in control of this important gas field and associated facility, providing the bulk of the gas to Syria's energy sector. The capture comes as the world remains distracted by the Islamic State's offensive for control of the now infamous city of Kobanê.
While Shaer was already captured by the Islamic State in the mid of July, it was recaptured in the end of July following a series of heavy offensives and airstrikes. The fighting left hundreds of deaths and the Pro-Assadists lost at least a dozen tanks during these battles.
The Islamic State subsequently shifted its focus on Regiment 121, Brigade 93 and Tabqa and thus, Shaer remained firmly in the hands of the Pro-Assadists. The facility was reinforced by the National Defence Force (NDF) along with associated tanks and vehicles. Unsurprisingly, most the troops defending Shaer belonged to the NDF.
The defending troops were also promised support of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), which was to come to the aid of the NDF when needed.
Captured at the base were at least six tanks, two BMP-1s, two VT-55KS armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs), one ZSU-23, one 2S1 Gvozdika, numerous technicals equipped with 14.5mm KPV heavy machine guns, several 9M133 Kornet missiles along with one asscociated 9P163-1 launcher, heavy mortars, RPG-7s and RPG-18s, machine guns, small arms and asscociated munitions.
It is yet to be seen if the Pro-Assadists will counterattack to try to retake the facility once again. As it provides large parts of Syria with energy, they likely will. If so, the battle for control of Shaer will likely end up as an attrition war. While the Pro-Assadists have the advantage of superior weapon systems and the presence of the SyAAF, losing dozens of soldiers and tanks in such attacks will only speed up the process of deplenishing available resources, with questionable results.
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The spoils of Regiment 121, captured by the Islamic State