Latest U.S.-Led Airstrikes Target ISIS' Funding, A.K.A. Their Oil Refineries In Syria

GRIMSBY, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 30: The sun rises over Lindsey oil refinery in North Lincolnshire as protestors gather to demonstrate against jobs for for foreign workers on January 30, 2009 near Grimsby, United Kingdom. Several hundred people demonstrated again at the Lindsey oil refinery in protest of jobs being given to foreign workers. Workers at other UK refineries also walked out in support of the Lindsey workers. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

After Monday's airstrikes that destroyed ISIS' central command facilities in Raqqa, a new round of attacks has hit another strategic target. On Wednesday night, U.S.-led airstrikes aimed for ISIS' oil refineries in Syria, which generate substantial revenue for the terror group. Although the attack was successful in hitting a dozen oil installations, it may not be enough to significantly cripple the group's funding.

The U.S.-led coalition was composed of 18 aircraft, combining fighter jets from the U.S. Air Force, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. The Air Force hit five targets while partner jets hit seven, destroying a total of 12 oil refineries in the Syria's eastern desert. At least four oil installations and three oil fields were located in the province of Deir Ezzor. According to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, the airstrikes killed at least 14 ISIS militants and five civilians.

A full assessment of the damage and success of the mission is still in progress, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN, "We are very confident we hit what we were aiming at, and we caused the damage we wanted."

The latest attack brings the total number of airstrikes in Syria to 33. Here's a look at where things stand now in the coalition's campaign to destroy ISIS.

Why Oil?

So why target these oil refineries rather continuing to target ISIS militants themselves? According to Pentagon officials, these refineries produce between 300 and 500 barrels of petroleum a day. ISIS not only uses the petroleum to fuel their own vehicles, but they also sell it on the black market for a hefty sum, which experts believe totals up to $2 million a day.

In a statement, U.S. Central Command said on Wednesday:

We are still assessing the outcome of the attack on the refineries, but have initial indications that the strikes were successful.... The destruction and degradation of these targets further limits [ISIS's] ability to lead, control, project power and conduct operations.

Is It Enough?

Unfortunately, no. ISIS is worth an estimated $2 billion. In fact, ISIS is the world's richest terrorist organization, and it didn't attain that title on oil alone. 

ISIS is also known for its bank heists, which some believe have netted the group close to half a billion dollars. It was reported in June that the terror group had stolen about $430 million from banks in Mosul, Iraq, though those reports have since been disputed.

The group also takes advantage of the areas — and people — they control in Iraq and Syria, from imposing heavy taxes on residents and businesses to regulating water and electricity. And after seizing much of Iraq's farmland, ISIS even began selling wheat back to the government through third parties to generate profit.

How Has ISIS Responded?

After Monday's airstrikes destroyed many of their facilities in Raqqa, experts believe that ISIS may have scattered. Unfortunately, this means that it's likely that militants have "mixed in with the civilian population" to complicate the airstrike missions. According to Syrian activist Maher al-Ahmad, militants have moved into civilian homes in the last few weeks. Hopefully, the coalition takes this into account before the next wave of strikes.

Images: Getty Images (3)

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