Bellingcat

Friday, 25 January 2013

Evidence Of Multiple Foreign Weapon Systems Smuggled To The Syrian Opposition In Daraa

Recently the following video was shown on Syrian State TV showing what was claimed to be a cargo of weapons destined for the Syrian opposition seized near Daraa, in the southwest of Syria


Generally I consider Syrian State TV to be a very poor source of accurate information, and I've occasionally written about some of the more obvious examples of propaganda they broadcast in the past, but one thing that I found very interesting about this video is the weapons on display.  What's interesting about this video is the types of weapons shown, and the quantity.  Here's the weapons that appear in the video

M79 Osa Rocket Launcher



The M79 Osa was originally a Yugoslavian anti-tank weapon, designed in 1979, and still manufactured and used in countries that once made up the former-Yugoslavia.  One interesting design element is that the rockets come in pods that attach to the rear of the rocket launcher, with the pods shown above in the first picture, and the launchers shown in the second picture.  A clear image of the rocket launcher, rocket pod, and complete system can be seen here.

RPG-22



The RPG-22 is a one-shot disposable anti-tank weapon produced from the early 1980's, and used in a number of countries, but not, as far as I'm aware, Syria.  A reference image showing the same markings as seen in the State TV video can be seen here.

M60 Recoilless Gun


The M60 Recoilless Gun is another weapon developed in Yugoslavia, and is not used by the Syrian military. Reference images are difficult to come by, but one can be seen on the right in this photograph.

Milkor MGL/RBG-6



This 40mm grenade launcher originates in South Africa as the Milkor MGL, but is manufactured under license in a number of countries, including Croatia, where it's known as the RBG-6.  Due to the poor quality of the video it's unclear which specific model it is.  The Syrian military does not currently use this weapon system.  Reference images of the RBG-6 can be found here, and it's important to note the folding stock for later.

Here we have four weapon systems, all with links to the same region, the former Yugoslavia, but I'm sure there's many people who will instantly discount anything shown on Syrian State TV as being propaganda or faked in some way.  What's very interesting about these weapons is they've all appeared in videos filmed by the Syrian opposition in Daraa at the same time, just as they make significant progress in that region.  

For a bit of background on recent events in and around Daraa I spoke to James Miller of EA Worldview, who has been tracking events on the ground in Syria
So, out of nowhere about a month or so ago, rebels overran a lot of the border crossings in Daraa.  I thought it was noise. At first I thought that maybe FSA units had left Damascus to pick a fight elsewhere as a diversion then, on January 14th, there came the paratroopers.  So basically, for at least 12 days the rebels have had total control over Busr al Harir, perhaps even longer, but for the last week and a half the regime has been desperately fighting to get it back, but they seem incapable of doing so.  Daraa is not a region where a lot of air bases have been lost, and the town is just not that big, so how are the rebels putting up this kind of a fight?  Bases have been captured near Damascus, but no significant base has fallen in this region for several months.

A number of Youtube channels have been used by groups local to Busr al-Harir, and I've spent quite a bit of time reviewing the videos posted on those channels over the last few months.  What I've found is around 3 weeks ago videos started being posted showing all the weapons I've listed above.  Here's some examples:

Milkor MGL/RBG-6



M60 Recoilless Gun



RPG-22



M79 Osa Rocket Launcher



There's many more videos on the same channels as the above videos showing these same weapons in use in Busr al-Harir, and it's very hard to not conclude that the Syrian opposition in that area has recently received at least one shipment of arms from abroad, likely from nearby Jordan, and with a strong possibility the shipment originated in one of the countries that made up the former-Yugoslavia.  A couple of examples of these same weapons have also recently been seen in the Deir Ez Zor and Aleppo regions, so that raises the question of whether or not this apparent smuggling operation is operating in those regions as well.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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