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Syrian rebels capture oil field, but oil not marketable

Oil used to be a major source of revenue for the regime of President Bashar Assad before the European Union and the United States imposed an embargo on Syria's crude exports last year.

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More than 36,000 dead

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.

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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.

The powerful car bomb shook the Dama Rose hotel and shattered much of its glass, according to an AP reporter at the scene. The hotel has been used in the past by UN observers visiting Syria, including the Damascus representative of the new UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

State-run SANA news agency said the bomb weighted around 110 pounds and went off about 500 yards from the army chief of staff's building.

The pro-government Ikhbariyeh TV said the explosives were planted under a car, parked in an outdoor lot near the country's main labor union building. At least 12 people, all union members, were wounded by shattered glass, the organization's chief, Mohammad Azouz, told the AP.

Baath official assassinated

In Raqqa province, gunmen broke into the home of Baath party official Ismail al-Hamadeh at dawn and sprayed him with bullets as he slept, according to a SANA report.

Elsewhere in Syria, activists said the army clashed with rebels in the northern cities of Idlib and Aleppo, as well as in Damascus and the southern border town of Daraa, where the uprising began.

In the Damascus suburbs of Harasta and al-Hajira, the army and opposition fighters exchanged heavy fire, killing a handful of rebels, SANA said. The fiercest fighting took place in Harem on the edge of Idlib, where 30 civilians were killed allegedly in clashes between rebels and the army, the agency said.

The Observatory said the Syrian army launched air strikes on rebel hideouts in Idlib's suburbs, mainly the strategic city of Maaret al-Numan, which rebels captured three weeks ago. Their presence in the city, along the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo, has disrupted the military's main supply route to the northern front.

* Associated Press writers Bassam Mroue in Beirut, Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Adam Schreck in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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