By Ben Hubbard
The New York Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A group of Syrian rebel brigades, including an affiliate of Al Qaeda, seized a large oil and gas field from government forces on Saturday, opposition activists said, further depriving the government of President Bashar al-Assad of the resources it needs to remain solvent.
Videos posted online showed scores of black-clad rebels walking through a large arch over an entrance to the Omar oil field, rummaging through its buildings and standing atop tanks.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the war, said a number of rebel brigades seized the area after an overnight battle and the withdrawal of government troops. Among the groups that participated were the Islam Army, which was formed east of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Two and a half years of civil war in Syria and strict international sanctions have battered the country’s oil sector, once an important source of government revenue.
Syria’s oil and gas fields are concentrated in the country’s largely rebel-controlled north and east. Most have been taken over by rebels or Kurdish militias, some of which finance their operations by selling the small amounts of crude they produce or processing it locally into usable gasoline products.
It was unclear whether the field’s production infrastructure had been damaged and whether the rebels would be able to maintain control, much less resume production.
Also on Saturday, a British think tank released a report saying more than 11,000 children had been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, including hundreds who were shot by snipers or executed after capture and 112 who were tortured.
The report, published by the Oxford Research Group, based its findings on the databases of four Syrian organizations that seek to document the war.
But not all agreed with its findings. Rami Abdul Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said many of its numbers appeared to be high.
His organization, which was not cited in the report, has documented the deaths of only 6,490 children as of mid-November, including only about 20 who had been tortured.
He said any documentation of deaths in Syria must navigate efforts by both sides to exaggerate their enemies’ crimes and whitewash their own.
“Now in Syria we have a huge problem with propaganda, both from the Syrian regime and from the rebels,” he said.
Government forces carried out a series of airstrikes in and around the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, killing more than 40 people, most of them reported by activists to be civilians.
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been divided between government- and rebel-controlled zones for more than a year, although the rebels control the territory north of the city to the Turkish border and have used it to organize and manage supplies.
Still, they remain largely helpless against the government’s air power.
Airstrikes in rebel-held parts of the city killed 22 people, including one woman and four children, said the observatory. One strike appeared to be aimed at a rebel headquarters but hit a market nearby, it said.
Other airstrikes hit in and near the rebel-held city of Al Bab, killing 22 people, according to the observatory and Bari Abdul-Latif, an antigovernment activist in Al Bab who was reached via Skype.
Mr. Abdul-Latif said that warplanes remained in the sky throughout much of the day and that the strikes hit near a school and the headquarters of a local aid organization.
The observatory said at least seven government soldiers were also killed in clashes in Aleppo Province on Saturday.
The Syrian state news media did not comment on the fighting near the oil fields or on the airstrikes in Aleppo Province.
They did report that Syria’s reconciliation minister, Ali Haidar, had survived an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on one of his cars as it drove through a government-controlled area near the Mediterranean coast. Mr. Haidar was not in the car, but his driver was killed.
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.
A version of this article appears in print on November 24, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Syrian Rebels Seize Control Of Oil Field From Assad .
Syrian government air strikes have killed at least 40 people in and around the city of Aleppo, activists say.
In one attack, warplanes are reported to have targeted rebel positions in Aleppo itself, but missed and hit a vegetable market instead, killing 15.
State TV said fighter aircraft targeted “gatherings of terrorists” in the city, killing many.
There are also reports that the government’s reconciliation minister has survived an assassination attempt.
There were several deadly airstrikes on Saturday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says.
The deadliest was reported from al-Bab, north of Aleppo, where 22 people died, according to the group.
Fighter jets also bombed two rebel-held districts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city – in the Halwaniyeh and Karam el-Beik districts, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdelrahman, said adding that were “heavy civilian casualties”.
Neither account of events could be independently verified.
The activist group also said that Islamist rebels, some with links to al-Qaeda, had seized Syria’s largest oil field, potentially cutting off President Bashar al-Assad’s access to almost all local crude reserves.
There was no immediate comment from the government about the reported loss of the Omar oil field in Deir Ezzor.
Meanwhile, Syrian state television reported that National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar escaped an attempt to kill him.
Mr Haidar was not in the car at the time of the shooting but his driver was killed, the report added.
Since the start of unrest in March 2011, more than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict.
More than two million Syrians have fled the country, according to the UN.