samedi 16 août 2014

Example of an operation of the Syrian uprising. Rebels attack the military base of Hamadiyah (Idlib province), July 2014

This article was written in collaboration with Mathieu Morant, a specialist in weapons and equipment of Syrian insurgents, among others (he is also interested in the Syrian regime, Lebanon and the Israeli-Arab wars).

In September 2013, shortly after the chemical attack of August, I published my first article on Syrian conflict1. My work, from the outset, has been mainly as a compilation and translation in French of many foreign articles (especially in english) dealing with various aspects of military conflict. Over the months, the inadequacy of the approach has clearly struck me : the compilation and translation, even though they have their uses, are not satisfactory to claim a genuine substantive work on the Syrian conflict . That's why I turned gradually to the direct sources (documents produced by the actors, videos, photos, texts, etc), without necessarily and systematically by intermediaries that are specialists, even strangers. My recent article on the pro-regime militia Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghaleb2 is the illustration of the evolution of my personal work on the Syrian conflict. Today, with the help of M. Morant, I continue this momentum by offering a unique analysis or almost, in French, on the war in Syria : an example chosen from rebel assaults on limited objectives, explained and presented in the broader context of operations in the province concerned and the evolution of the insurgency from 2011. An original four hands-work, which I hope, will convince some that I do not necessarily limited to the compilation and translation into french.

The insurgency grew in Idlib province (April-June 2014)

The Syrian conflict has taken a new turn since last June because of the dramatic breakthrough of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Sham, aka Levant), which became the Islamic State (EI) on June 28, in the north Iraq, with the capture of Mosul (June 10). The Syrian regime, meanwhile, launched a limited offensive in the south, in the province of Deraa, and also kept the pressure on Aleppo, realizing the junction with the besieged garrison of the Central Prison (May 22) and putting his hand on the industrial district of Sheikh Najjar, northeast of the city (5 July). However, Idlib province, the historic core of armed insurrection3, ended up, therefore, quite bald, and was logically targeted by rebels since the beginning of 2014. They are being present in strength and long date4.

Source : Institute Study of War.

The aim of the rebels, in particular, is to control the two key highways that allow the regime to lead more effectively, by land, the reconquest of Aleppo. The M5 following a north-south axis from Damascus to Aleppo ; from Saraqib an another highway, the M4, branches off westward across Idlib province to join the province of Latakia and the town of the same name, on the coast. On the M5 motorway is particularly the city of Maarat al-Numan, near which stand two military bases still held by the regime in Idlib province : Wadi Deif east of the town and the Hamadiyah south.

The first target of the Syrian rebels is Sheykhoun Khan, a city located south of Idlib province and near the border with the northern province of Hama. The regime has driven the rebels from the place in the summer of 2012. The capture of the city would take effect for the rebels to control a larger portion of the M5 and prepare for possible attack on two military bases further north around Maarat al-Numan. The attack on Khan Sheykhoun, which begins in the spring, involves including Suqour al-Sham5, member of the Islamic Front, al-Sham legions6 related to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, al-Nosra7, and other affiliated groups from the the label "Free Syrian Army". On April 15, the rebels say they have taken three checkpoints -on 21 checkpoints or facilities plan around Khan Sheykhoun- southwest of the city.

Source : Institute Study of War.

On 5 May, the mine warfare begins with the underground explosion of Al Sahaba checkpoint on the outskirts of the city of Maarat al-Numan, regarded as the western gate of the base of Wadi Deif , according to M. Morant. The operation was led by the Islamic Front, the legions al-Sham and a local brigade of Maarat al-Numan8. According to Mathieu Morant, after the explosion, and once the position conquered, the work of ants continues, but this time in order to recover arms and ammunition. The operation ended with the withdrawal of the rebels from the ruins of Al Sahaba checkpoint June 23. A ZSU-23/4, a T-72AV, and BMP-1 will be extracted from the ruins : out of order, but significant source of ammunition and spare parts. On May 14, ten days before the final assault on Khan Sheykhoun, Suqour al-Sham and the legions of Sham lead an underground explosion against the military base of Wadi Deif, east of Maarat al-Numan on "barrier "As Sawwadi, northeast of the base. This tactic of digging tunnels long distance has been widely used across the country to blow up targets of the regime difficult to achieve, also in Aleppo, but also throughout the country. Here the tunnel, 850 meters long, ends underneath the barrier. Rebels claim to have placed its end not less than 60 tons of explosive. The explosion completely destroyed the target and insurgents claimed the death of a hundred men of the regime. A week later, on May 23, the legions of Sham announce assault on Hesh, a town between Khan and Sheykhoun Maarat al-Numan held by the regime, soon joined by the Islamic Front9, the Syria Revolutionaries Front and other rebel groups.

On May 25, a combined operation between al-Nosra and others groups related to ASL, including Harakat Hazm10 (which received US TOW missiles11) and the Syria Revolutionaries Front12, attacks military base of Kazhanat . The rebels approaching from the north and east and flank the position from west. Al-Nosra launch, before the main assault, two suicide bombers vehicles on the perimeter. The place falls in the evening and the next day, the checkpoint Salaam, last position of the regime around Khan Sheykhoun, is taken. On 26 May 2014, Khan Sheykhoun is totally in the hands of the opposition.

Source : Institute Study of War.

The same May 25 Suqour al-Sham and al-Nosra launch joint attacks against the hills south of the city of Ariha, on the M4, against two military installations positioned on the heights that control access to the south of the city. This attack exploits the explosion of four suicide bombers vehicles, including that of a native American from Florida, which al-Nosra give a wide publicity13. Infiltration of Ariha, which is located on the M4, allowing rebels to prevent the regime to supply or reinforce its forces in the cities of Idlib and Aleppo. The presence of al-Nosra in both operations, Ariha and Khan Sheykhun, also suggests real planning from the rebel side, with two simultaneous operations. Meanwhile, June 3, 2014, al-Nosra, Suqur al-Sham and the legions of Sham create a common framework to attack Jisr al-Shughour, further west, a town held by the regime on the highway M4, closer to the border with the province of Latakia. But this time the effort is uncoordinated, especially as the FSA affiliated groups are not associated with the company and operate independently, probably to not cooperate with al-Nosra. Especially since the retake of Kessab, which has fallen to the rebels in March14, the failure puts an abrupt end to the rebel attempts in this area.

Under the effect of the underground explosion of Al Sahaba checkpoint, May 5, 2014, this T-72AV turned. A half-buried, it will be recovered by Syrian rebels during clearing operations following the capture of the position. (Photo source: Jabal Alzaweya Today) -Mathieu Morant.

Perched on a tank-transporter, ZSU-23-4 Shilka has been extracted from the ruins of Al Sahaba. If the machine is probably off,the board armament, consisting of four 23 mm cannons 2A7, and ammunition in the background, is a prize of choice. (Photo credit: Al Marra Today) -Mathieu Morant.

On 14 May 2014 it was the turn of the "barrier" of Tel Sawwadi, located northeast of the base of Wadi Deif, being blown by a powerful explosion. (Photo source: S.R.G.C Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

Comparative view of the position of Tel Sawwadi, above, before the explosion, bottom, after the attack. (Photo source: S.R.G.C Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

A view of the Al Sahaba position taken after the explosion that completely destroyed it. (Photo source: Lens Young Horany) -Mathieu Morant.

Storming the Hamadiyah military base (June 30-July 16, 2014)

In late June and early July, the rebels eventually focus on military base of Hamadiyah, southwest of Maarat al-Numan. The base is located along the M5, and prevents access to the city from Khan Sheykhoun further south. Around the base, to the west, there are 4 checkpoints : Hanajak, Tafar Dahman, and al-Midajin which form an arc protecting Hamadiyah from west to north.

Map :  Stéphane Mantoux.

List of rebel groups / coalitions involved in the attacks against the three checkpoints west-northwest of the military base Hamadiyah (Idlib province), in July 2014.

Name of the group/coalition

Syria Revolutiaries Front

Give al-Ansar brigade. Present on the 3 assaults, especially in Hanajak.

Syria Liberation Front15 (created in January 2014, fusion of 70 rebel groupes ; FSA-related)16

Give Liwa Ahrar March 15 of Kafrouma. Mainly present in Taraf and al-Dahman.


With TOW missiles probably ; shoot maybe a T-55M with them at al-Dahman ; present à Taraf et al-Dahman.

Sheikhs Abu Bakr et Omar Brigade17

Only present in Taraf. Created December, 17th, 2013, in Maarat-al-Numan (Idlib province), fight in Latakia in April 2014, but mainly in Idlib. FSA-related18.

FSA 13th Division.

Take part in Taraf with TOW missiles, destroy 2 tanks.

Al-Sham Legions (Faylaq-al-Sham)

Give support fire : T-54 in al-Dahman, pick-ups with machine guns and guns...

Islamic Front

Give at least 2 tank (one T-72AV at least).

Al-Nosra Front

Present in Taraf and al-Dahman but probably only for support fire.

  • Hanajak checkpoint

Syrian rebels attack obviously first the Hanajak checkpoint, the southernmost of the arc of circle west / north formed by the four sites listed above. The choice is logical since it is it who is most at risk, not eligible for immediate help from others. The assault against Hanajak probably begins on July 1, after a preparation up to the day before. This is the northern / northeastern part of the checkpoint which seems object of the attack. The checkpoint is pounded by a Yugoslav M60 recoilless 82mm and strafed by several pickups boarding KPV 14.5 mm at the rear, as well as a machine gun DShK 12.7 mm19. A RAK-12 from the artillery battalion 318 of Syria Revolutionnaries Front also intervenes to bomb Hanajak20. Under the protection of this covering fire, two tanks T-6221 from the Syria Revolutionnaries Front (who send at least a shell on outer defenses22) approach embankments surrounding the checkpoint, allowing twenty / thirty combattants (roughly the equivalent of a platoon23) to achieve this. One of the T-62 then advance to outflank the defenders, followed by a dozen men, while other infantrymen entering the first buildings. The video then shows the insurgents fire their handguns (AK-47, PK, RPG-7, at least two men equiped24) from embankments and around the checkpoint. Embossed behind the levees, the T-62 tanks then provide fire support to long distance25. But the rebels did not remain in the Hanajak checkpoint, obviously abandoned, perhaps too close to the base of Hamidiyah. That is why videos show a second assault on July 16. The attack is conducted using the T-55M No. 39798826 captured al-Dahman and returned to service for the occasion, despite the damage of the possible impact of a TOW missile. The infantrymen going over the top accompanied by at least one man carrying a stretcher to rescue wounded27. For support, al-Ansar brigade of the Syria Revolutionnaries Front uses a mortar to pound the checkpoint28.

Map :  Stéphane Mantoux.
A multiple rocket launcher RAK-12 128 mm of Syria Revolutionaries Front  is about to open fire on the Hanajak position. (Photo source: screenshot, Youtube) -Mathieu Morant.

Two Syrian fighters of SRF observe the results of rebel bombing of Hanajak: with them, a recoilless gun M60 82mm. (Photo source: Lens Abu Dbak, Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

Pictured here briefly sheltered by levees on the line of Hamadiyah front, two T-62 of SRF supported the first assault on Hanajak. (Photo source: Lens Abu Dbak, Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

The two T-62 of SRF arrive on the embankments of checkpoint. Screen-Capture

A 12.7 mm machine gun opened fire on Hanajak.-Screenshot.

The former rebels enter into buildings-Screenshot.

Technical Armed with KPV heavy machine guns opened fire on Hanajak.-Screenshot.

Yugoslav M60 recoilless gun shoots Hanajak.-Screenshot.

The RAK-12  from artillery battalion 318 of SRF opened fire on the checkpoint. Screen-Capture

One of the two T-62 operating on the side of the checkpoint after the foot soldiers have joined the earth levees Screen-Capture.

Rebels fire with a PK inside the checkpoint-Screen-Capture.

T-55M captured al-Dahman before Hanajak, July 16. -Capture Screen.

Rebel infantry assault Hanajak July 16 ; man rightmost carries a brancard-Screen-Capture ..

Behind the T-55M, the rebels are covered. One of the shooters of RPG-7 carrying a tandem Egyptian Cobra rocket . -Capture Screen.

Same view a few seconds later.-Screenshot.

Mounting the SRF showing the assault on Hanajak on July 1.

Video of the SRF showing the second assault on Hanajak, July 16.

  • Taraf checkpoint

The second target is Taraf checkpoint, located approximately 600 m northwest of that of Hanajak, and is the most westerly in the arc protecting the base of Hamadiyah. The attack (which takes place from July 7) is led by a group called Liwa Suqur Jabal (which has obviously TOW missiles) and the Sheikhs Abu Bakr and Omar brigade. It employs at least one tank T-62 and one BMP-129. The checkpoint is bombed (especially by "hell canon") from the west / southwest, the bombing being before the ground assault led by a number of armored vehicles (2 BMP-1, 2 T-72AV ,1 other T-72) that allow, as Hanajak, to open the way for infantry (which actually almost everyone wear orange bandana to avoid fratricide shoots) to the levees surrounding the checkpoint, which then penetrate inside. During the attack, at least a foot soldier used a RPG-22 against the checkpoint. The assault is obviously given from the west30. During the progression of the checkpoint, one of the T-72 sends at least four shells into the building. The FSA 13th Division, equipped with TOW missiles, hits a T-72 tank located north of the base of Hamadiya, on the road to Taraf, at a distance of about 600 m, then a T-55M31 which is itself close to the east wall of the checkpoint and which is hit 1.5 km away. As has been able to discover M. Morant by examining maps of the terrain, the TOW missile is necessarily located north-east of the military base Hamadiyah, close to the M5 highway, south of Maarat al-Numan . About the intervention of an armed group misiles TOW, we can deduce that it is specifically responsible for targeting armored reinforcements sent to the checkpoint for possible attacks against them or in a fixed position which may interfere with the assault. We also note that the rebels move quite easily around the base, despite the presence of checkpoints. The Syria Revolutionnaries Front, who is also involved in the assault (with al-Ansar Brigade), makes great use of RPG-7 once the infantry penetrated earth levees 32. A video also shows a tank regime (T-62 probably) maneuvering around the checkpoint during a counterattack as rebels have already penetrated inside33. Another rebel group, the Syria Liberation Front, is also involved in the fight. A video of this group shows the concentration of armor before the attack protected by air defense weapons, DShK 12.7 mm machine gun mounted on the ground and anti-aircraft guns on pickups34. The buildings were then leveled, obviously for the regime do not to reuse it in case of recovery. One T-55 tank seems to have been captured during the assault (number 397165). The brigade Fatiheen of al-Sham legions is also present during the operation. In total the rebels involved in the assault 2 BMP-1 and at least 5 tanks35 (2 T-62, 2 T-72AV and 1 other T-72), a number of armor larger than usual for operations of this magnitude. 2 T-72 belonging to the Islamic Front (you can see the emblem painted on one of the tubes) which suggests that the armor, rebel side, can move fairly fluidly between local groups when they work sometimes together. M. Morant also confirms that the tanks are often moved between different sectors by the rebels with tank transporters. After taking the checkpoint, the insurgents bury at least one of their dead, two others are visible and at least one wounded36. Al-Nosra, which put online a video on the assault on August 11, also seems to have been involved in the assault on Taraf. However, it did not take part, obviously, directly to the attack but to the harassing fire from the checkpoint with a T-55, T-72 and a homemade mortar placed about 1 km north of Taraf37.

Map :  Stéphane Mantoux.

Map :  Stéphane Mantoux.

On 7 July 2014, the position of Taraf, seen here during the preliminary bombardment, in turn, is under assault. (Photo source: Jabal Alzaweya Today) -Mathieu Morant.

T-55M No. 397465, seized intact inside Taraf, was filmed here shortly after his capture. (Photo source: screenshot, Youtube) - Mathieu Morant.

Covered by a T-72AV deployed during the assault, a group of Syrian fighters progressing towards the Taraf checkpoint . (Photo source: Lens Abu Dbak, Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

Taraf has just fallen to the rebels: visible in this photograph, the T-72 that the Islamic Front has given to support the assault. In the background, a BMP-1 of  al-Sham legions, in which reactive armor bricks were added. The vehicle will be destroyed in a day. (Photo source: Lens Abu Dbak, Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

View of a field fortification built by soldiers of Taraf: long ammunition boxes contain at the origin Grad 122mm rockets. (Photo source: S.R.G.C Idlib) -Mathieu Morant.

Taraf controlled by rebels ; once recovered arms and ammunition, the position will be razed. (Photo source: Jabal Alzaweya Today) - Mathieu Morant.

Soldier  of the regime killed inTaraf-screenshot.

Rebels enter the buildings.- Screen-Capture..

After taking the checkpoint, the rebels are destroying buildings with explosives.-Screenshot.

A shell, probably from tank, hit the checkpoint, under the camera of sheikhs Abu Bakr and Omar brigade .-Screenshot.

T-55M captured  in Taraf-Screenshot.

A T-62 of SRF under the camera of Syria Liberation Front (emblem in the upper left) .- screenshot.

2 T-72 parked in front of the embankments of the checkpoint. Nearest bears the emblem of the Islamic Front on the tube; that of the background is a T-72 with reactive armor in poor condition.-screen Capture.

The charge. A T-72 advance followed by infantry, not far below a BMP-1-Screen Capture

Abu Bakr and Omar Brigade film, short distance, a T-62 of the regime maneuvering- Screen-Capture..

2 BMP-1 used by the rebels for the attack, before the levees. Left a classic model, right one with briquettes of reactive armor from T-72 added, it will be destroyed on July 8 before al-Dahman.-Screenshot.

A rebel wounded. The groups involved are attentive to the care of the wounded, with stretcher following fighters especially. This is then evacuated by véhicule-Screen-Capture ..

Below montage after the assault and pointing it at ground level, at the rebel fighters.

Video of the sheikhs Abu Bakr and Omar brigade showing the assault on Taraf remotely.

Video of the FSA 13th Division showing shooting TOW missile on the T-55M of the regime near the east wall of Taraf (1.5 km away).

  • al-Dahman checkpoint

The insurgents finally tackle a third checkpoint, al-Dahman, located approximately 600 m northeast of the Taraf. This is again one of the groups that took part in the conquest of the Taraf checkpoint, the Syria Liberation Front, which led the assault, with several armored vehicles. The attack started on July 9. A probe before main attack, July 8, led to the destruction of a BMP-1 tinkered with briquettes of T-72 tank extra armor. Previously used during the assault against Taraf, the machine is visibly destroyed southwest of the checkpoint, just off the road that runs west, perhaps by aviation of the regime38. From June 30, a T-54 lo al-Sham legions, probably placed a little to the west of the checkpoint, shells Dahman with tank gun39. A heavy machine gun DShK 12.7mm is also used40. The Syria Revolutionnaries Front also uses the RAK-12 against Dahman. A local brigade of Maarat al-Numan also use a "hell canon"41. The approach is from the south-southwest, tanks (T-72AV and T-55M No. 397165 captured in Taraf, returned to service) in the lead. The traces of previous battles with the carcass of the BMP-1 destroyed are seen in the field. Fire support is provided by "hell canons" and makeshift mortars (perhaps grouped into battery). We can also see the wreckage of a T-72 tank on the levees around the checkpoint, around which the tanks of the rebels come to emboss. Several dead soldiers of the regime, killed in the fighting, are visible on the ground. Another T-55M, No. 397098, perhaps hit by a TOW missile before assault42, was seized by the rebels. A BMP-1 parked nearby was clearly hit, like the T-72 destroyed the levees, by a shot of "hell cannon" that destroyed his 73 mm gun. The tanks are once again in the lead to cover the infantry. Armed pick-ups with twin KPV 14.5 mm, 23 mm 2A7 guns or DShK anti-aircraft machine guns still provide protection. After winning the checkpoint, the insurgents are hiding behind levees that cover the approach from the east. The Syria Revolutionnaries Front is also present, bombards the checkpoint with a "hell canon" and commits several dozen men43. The number of armored vehicles assumes the formation of a true ad hoc mechanized unit, rebel side. The al-Sham legions also deployed several pick-ups with heavy machine guns44. Al-Nosra, which publishes a video of the attack on al-Dahman also on August 11, is still only concerned, obviously, with the bombing of the checkpoint. A handmade mortar, especially, the same as Taraf, located about 1 km north-northwest of al-Dahman, took part in the bombing. The video shows a hit on a vehicle (T-72? BMP-1? Other armor?). But it is not possible to say that this is indeed the mortar al-Nosra that has hit because the video is a montage of scenes briskly mixing Taraf and al-Dahman, besides the shooting probably will not all come visibly from al-Nosra45.

Map :  Stéphane Mantoux et Mathieu Morant.

Mounted on a Ford pickup, a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun of 23 mm is about to open fire, shooting in tight on al-Dahman. (Photo source: al-Sham Corps) - Mathieu Morant.
T-72AV of Syrian rebels is pictured here making movement toward al-Dahman position, 7 July 2014 (Photo credit: Al Marra Today) - Mathieu Morant.

Southeast of the checkpoint of al-Dahman, rebel fighters rest, sitting behind the carcass of a BMP-1. The vehicle was obviously hit by a projectile (potentially from a "canon of hell") to the turret, destroying the barrel 73 mm 2A28 Grom. In the background, riding on a berm, a T-72 destroyed. (Photo source: S.R.G.C Idlib) - Mathieu Morant.
On July 9, 2014, rebel fighters observe the carcass of BMP-1 destroyed during the fighting for al-Dahman. The vehicle was modified locally by adding reactive armor bricks: an illusory protection. (Photo source: al-Sham Corps) - Mathieu Morant.

T-55M No. 397098, probably achieved by a Tow missile, has been discovered during the assault by Syrian fighters. After several minutes of fighting to secure the area, the tank was recovered ... (Photo source: Lens Abu Dbak, Idlib) - Mathieu Morant.

Two Syrian fighters hail capture of the T-55M No. 397098, which crosses the carcass of the BMP-1 destroyed. Note, in the backpack of RPG ammo, an tandem anti-tank rocket Cobra of Egyptian origin. (Photo source: al-Ansar brigade Idlib) - Mathieu Morant.

View of one of the buildings of the checkpoint of al-Dahman, severely affected by the fighting: again, crates of ammunition for 122 mm Grad were reused for protection, and for the development of position shots. (Photo source: Lens Young Ma'arrawi) - Mathieu Morant.

Stuffed into pre-arranged firing position, a "canon of hell" has opened fire on al-Dahman. (Photo source: al-Sham Corps) - Mathieu Morant.

Proceeding to airdrop food containers, a helicopter Mil Mi 8/17 of SyAAF is photographed here over Hamadiyah on 15 July 2014 (Photo source: Idlib SRGC) - Mathieu Morant.

The checkpoint of al-Dahman, July 7, 2014, under fire from rebel artillery. (Photo source: screenshot, Youtube) -Mathieu Morant.

Wreck of the BMP-1 destroyed to 8 July-Screen-Capture

Another BMP-1 prepares before the attack, Syria Liberation Front .-Screenshot.

The BMP-1 hit by a "hell canon"; rebels regain its load.-screen Capture.

July 8; BMP-1 of the rebels destroyed during a first attempt. Aviation ? -Capture Screen.

Left, the BMP-1 destroyed and a tank involved in the attack on the checkpoint at the bottom -Capture screen.

SRF reinforcements in the checkpoint-Screen-Capture

The RAK-12 of SRF still used on Al-Dahman. screenshot.

The T-55 in poor condition, possibly hit by a TOW, recovered by the rebels to al-Dahman. Several bodies of soldiers of the regime are visible .-screen Capture.

T-55M to the bottom and in the foreground the T-72 probably destroyed by a shot from "hell cannon" on the levees. -Capture Screen.

Both tanks used for the assault on al-Dahman: T-55M captured at Taraf and a T-72. -Capture Screen.

Below, video of the Syria Liberation Frontshowing the assault on al-Dahman at ground level, closer to the fighters.

Remote video of the attack on al-Dahman.

Summary table of armored vehicles engaged by Syrian rebels in assaults against the three checkpoints west-northwest of the military base Hamadiyah (Idlib province), in July 2014.

Number and types of armored vehicles engaged by Syrian rebels
2 T-62, Syria Revolutionaries Front (first assault, July 1).

1 T-55M (second assault, July 16)


2 T-62, Syria Revolutionaries Front

3 T-72 (2 from Islamic Front, one AV ; 1 another T-72 AV).

1 BMP-1, improvised armor, from T-72 reactive armor + some others BMP-1

1 T-55 and 1 T-72 from al-Nosra, support fire, from 1 km to the north.


1 T-54 from al-Sham Legions, support fire.

1 BMP-1, improvised armor, from T-72 = destroyed during combat.

1 T-72AV

1 T-55M n°397165 (taken in Taraf).

Losses in armored vehicles incurred by the Syrian regime during during attacks against the three checkpoints west-northwest of the military base Hamadiyah (Idlib province), July 2014.

Losses of the regime




1 T-55 M (n° 397165) taken by rebels.

1 T-55M destroyed by TOW missile, eastern side of checkpoint.

1 T-72 destroyed by TOW missile, about 150 m north of Hamadiya military base.


1 T-72 destroyed maybe par « hell canon » shot on the top.

1 BMP-1 hit by « hell canon » on the gun and upper part of the hull, inside wreckaged by rebels.

1 T-55M (n° 397098) maybe hit by TOW missile and taken by rebels.

Losses in armored vehicles suffered by rebels in assaults against the three checkpoints west-northwest of the military base Hamadiyah (Idlib province), in July 2014.

Losses of the rebels






1 BMP-1 with improvised armor, from T-72, destroyed (burned) July 8, maybe by plane.


The Syrian uprising has evolved considerably since the first clashes occurred in June 201146. From mid-2012, local groups that make up the bulk of the insurgent landscape begin to gather in larger coalitions across one or more provinces, and the whole country -the Islamic Front born in November 2013 was without doubt the most complete form of the process, but we also think of more recent coalitions, like the legions al-Sham, the Syria Revolutionaries Front... The numbers are increasing, as well as weapons, sometimes fed from the outside but mostly took on the regime (as illustrated by the example of tanks and armored vehicles, in decisive operations against the checkpoints around the base of Hamadiyah). The mobility of insurgents is also increasing with the introduction of many technicals and the use of civilian vehicles. Broader coalitions are formed to carry out more ambitious attacks against heavily defended sites that checkpoints or other local facilities.

Nevertheless, the operations of the rebels often still retain a provincial or sub-provincial character, as seen very well in the case of offensive Idlib since spring 2014 The various rebel coalitions, and even the more powerful, struggling to coordinate their action at the country level or set of provinces. Although the rebels are better armed than at the beginning of the insurgency, the lack of heavy weapons to face support fire from the regime, especially artillery and aviation, is acute. In the case of successive attacks of the three checkpoints around the military base of Hamadiyah, we thus see that fire support and cover fire are the result of homemade weapons ("canons of hell ") or relatively light weapons, recoilless rifles of various models, heavy machine guns of 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm, guns ZU-23-2 of 23 mm, as stated M. Morant. That is why the rebels organize here a semblance of armored unit, with tanks T-54/55 / T-62 / T-72 and BMP-1 armored vehicles, to form the first wave of the assault. Indeed, artillery and support weapons are in short supply (S-60 57 mm are used, Harakat Hazm deploys a handful of M46 130mm plus light and heavy mortars of various groups, though makeshift mortars and guns are used, again according to M. Morant), armor provide protection for the infantry, conduct fire support remotely and are highlighted in direct attacks. However, there is some fluidity in the use of armor between armed groups - the Islamic Front "paying" several T-72 while it has relatively minor role in the operations. These characteristics also explain the patient approach of positions relatively weakly defended as checkpoints : firing tanks or anti-tank missiles (TOW example), prior bombing, destruction of vehicles placed at important places, etc. And the choice of relatively soft targets, as external bases checkpoints, which avoid unnecessarily sacrifice, for exampl the tanks that would be too exposed. There is also attention to potential health injuries (two examples of medics closer in two of the four assaults). Moreover, insurgents sometimes refurbish quickly capturedarmor , as shown by the example of the T-55M which may have touched by the TOW missile at al-Dahman on July 9 and reused a week later in the second assault against Hanajak, or that of the T-55M captured on July 7 and Taraf employee al-Dahman two days later. TOW missiles seem to be directly used to destroy armor of the regime, usually embossed in defensive positions or cover, or sent to stop or slow down any attack against loyalist soldiers. We also note that the rebels are concerned by fratricide fire.

The significant gains achieved by the insurgency in the province of Idlib since the months of March-April 2014 show that the rebel groups still retain a fighting power and spirit, particularly in areas where the regime is not capable to reinforce isolated garnisons. It had, it should be noted, lifted once the seat of the two bases of Wadi Deif and Hamadiya in April 201347. But the offensive of spring and early summer, relatively coordinated across the province, shows that the rebels are about to return in the siege to Hamadiya or Wadi Deif. Note also the intervention, in assaults of the three checkpoints west / northwest of Hamadiyah, of rebel formations mostly for the Free Syrian Army label, as the Syria Revolutionaries Front promoted since December 2013 by the Saudi Arabia, which has received TOW missiles, like other groups present here (as FSA 13th Division). The ability of these armed groups supported by the United States, however, is undermined recently by the offensive of al-Nosra in Idlib province, which seeks to recover a bastion after the loss of its eastern base in favor of Islamice State, by seizing the territory of the Syria Revolutionaries Front in particular48. Al-Nosra simply struggling to survive against the huge challenge posed by the rise of the Islamic State49. It is interesting to note, moreover, that al-Nosra working away with groups involved in the assault of three checkpoints early July before turning against some before the end of the month. The Syrian conflict is extremely unstable, the situation on the ground changes very quickly : just measure the number of events since the fall of Mosul, there are only two months, to realize.

3Joseph HOLLIDAY, The struggle for syria in 2011. An operational and regional analysis, MIDDLE EAST SECURITY REPORT 2, Institute for the Study of War, 2011, p.21-22.
16Thanks to Yalla Souriya for the help.
18Thanks to Yalla Souriya for the help.
46Jeffrey White, Andrew J. Tabler, Aaron Y. Zelin, SYRIA’S MILITARY OPPOSITION. How Effective, United, or Extremist ?, Policy Focus 128, SYRIA’S MILITARY OPPOSITION, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY, septembre 2013.

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