"--IANS/EFE"
Beirut, July 3 (IANS/EFE) Sunni fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) Thursday gained control over the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ez-zor and now occupy an area five times the size of Lebanon in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The London-based group, which cited activists in Syria, said ISIS had taken the east of Deir Ez-zor after entering the largest provincial city, Al Mayadeen, and now also controlled the country's main oilfield in Al Omar, with a capacity to produce 73,000 barrels a day.

The breakthrough came as fighters of the Al-Nusra Front, a branch of Al Qaeda in Syria, and other rebel factions pulled out of the province after announcing they would stop fighting the ISIS.

ISIS forces now dominate an area that extends from the eastern city of al-Bukamal, near the Syrian-Iraqi border, to the edges of the northwestern city of Aleppo.

In the north, the Islamists have taken a large part of the border between Syria and Turkey with the exception of the Al Hasaka Kurdish province and some arab villages, while in the south they have reached the central provinces of Hama and Homs.

On June 29, ISIS proclaimed an Islamic caliphate in the large swath of territory it holds across Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

The group has been fighting several other rebel groups in Syria since last January, including the Al-Nusra Front.

--IANS/EFE

ab/vm


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