Monday, August 27, 2012

Rebels use Tanks to Capture Regime Position Near Ariha

The Muhajireen wal-Ansar Battalion, of the Suqour al-Sham Brigade, captured one of the regime’s strongest positions in Jebel al-Zawiyah on August 26. The captured position, located in the town of Kafr Lata just south of the crucial city of Ariha, was shelled repeatedly by rebel armor before capitulating. Suqour al-Sham’s armored vehicles include an APC captured in mid-August, as well as main battle tanks, one in the possession of the Daoud Battalion, and one used by the Muhajireen wal-Ansar Battalion.

The rebel use of armor is an emerging capability and this is the first time that rebel armor seemed to play a crucial role in a battle in Idlib province. In addition to capturing a regime position, the rebels also acquired a large amount of ammunition, and the Battalion’s leader, Abu Musab, announced the capture of five regime fighters. As the rebels improve their use of armored vehicles they may finally be able to capture the larger bases that they have been unable to defeat thus far. A prime target for the Jebel al-Zawiyah rebels may be the Mastouma military base five kilometers north of Ariha, a likely source of the deadly artillery attacks in northern Jebel al-Zawiyah.

There are, however, a number of factors that limit the growth of rebel armor capabilities. One is the difficulty of keeping tanks operational. As the rebels capture more vehicles, however, they will gain a ready supply of spare parts and mechanics abound in Syria. The bigger problem is regime helicopters. Hind attack helicopters are designed to destroy tanks, and there have been reports that the regime has effectively used them to this end. The full development of the rebel armor capability may therefor have to wait until the regime's supply of combat-ready helicopters has been significantly diminished.

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