"It's another blow to Assad in terms of ... the oil available to him," said Robin Mills, head of consulting at Manaar Energy Consulting & Project Management in Dubai. The capturing of Al Ward is largely symbolic, Mills added. The rebels face serious challenges getting much — if any — of the captured oil to the market since the main export pipeline along the Mediterranean coast remains under government control.
"I don't see how they can export the oil that way," Mills said. "And even if they could, I don't see that anyone would pick up that oil."
In the past year, Syrian officials have repeatedly accused rebel units of targeting the country's infrastructure, including blowing up oil and gas pipelines in the energy-rich northeast of the country.
Syria exported some 150,000 barrels of oil a day before European and US imposed sanctions took effect. In 2010, it earned $4.4 billion by selling to EU countries alone.
The uprising against Assad started with peaceful demonstrations in March last year, but has since morphed into a bloody civil war. Activists say more than 36,000 people have been killed in 19 months of fighting.
Damascus claims the opposition is part of a foreign plot to destroy the country, and accuses rebels of being mercenaries of the West and oil-rich Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have supplied the fighters with weapons.
On Sunday, state media said rebels detonated a car bomb near a major hotel in the capital, wounding several people. They also said the rebels — the government refers to them as terrorists — were behind the assassination of a leading member of the ruling Baath party in northeast Raqqa province.