Regime’s anti-tank guided missiles threaten supply routes near contact points in northwestern Syria

Civil Defence members extinguishing a burning car that the regime targeted with a guided missile in the western Aleppo countryside - 6 May 2021 (Syria Civil Defence)

Civil Defence members extinguishing a burning car that the regime targeted with a guided missile in the western Aleppo countryside - 6 May 2021 (Syria Civil Defence)

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Enab Baladi – Ali Darwish

The Syrian regime’s use of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) near lines of contact with opposition forces has considerably increased, causing civilian casualties and deaths among opposition fighters.

In recent months, the regime has set ATGM bases in several points in northwestern Syria, especially in mountainous areas, for easier monitoring, targeting, covering, and withdrawing in case its forces were located or targeted. 

Enab Baladi investigated the regime’s use of ATGMs in the last three months and found out that it has used them in the countryside of Lattakia and al-Ghab Plain to the northwest of Hama province. The regime also used the ATGMs in Idlib’s western, southern, and eastern countryside as well as in the western countryside of Aleppo.

The regime forces have adopted a new strategy setting up ATGM launchers in the hills near contact points, particularly in rural Lattakia and southern and western Idlib countryside. By doing so, the regime forces were able to expose new areas and roads and target military vehicles without risking being located.

Around 14 people were killed in opposition areas, including two children and two women, during the last three months, according to figures by the Syria Civil Defence center in Bidama town in the southwestern Idlib countryside.

Exposed supply routes are targets to regime forces

The first spotter in the coastal region and Idlib countryside, Farouk Abu Hussein, told Enab Baladi that the ATGM bases deployed by the regime on the hills in rural Lattakia and the western Idlib countryside enabled it to monitor military vehicles from long distances to target them within the missiles’ firing range, making precise hits.

Abu Hussein pointed out that the exposed roads include the one from the Bidama town to the city of Jisr al-Shughur and the secondary roads surrounding the small Bidama town. Part of the international highway M4 linking Aleppo and Lattakia on the al-Zainia village is also open to regime’s targeting, while military machinery is observed until Bidama junction and targeted at this point.

The regime’s ATGM bases set in the Shalf Citadel in Lattakia countryside can expose the villages of al-Najia, Tardin, Bidama, and Kinda, besides the supply route of military opposition points in the al-Kabina hills in the Jabal al-Akrad in rural Lattakia. Regime forces positioned on the Abu Saad hill in Lattakia countryside can expose several military outposts and their supply routes. 

Meanwhile, the regime’s ATGM bases on the hills of Rashu and al-Ballout target the supply route of Jibal al-Turkman and the villages of al-Tifahia and al-Kalaa in rural Lattakia. According to the spotter, the bases can also expose part of the road linking Badima and Jibal al-Turkmen at a distance of 200 meters and target the military machinery at these points. 

The Syrian regime forces controlled several areas and hills in Lattakia countryside after 2015, which helped them attack villages and towns in this region and western Idlib directly from the Jisr al-Shughur side.

The regime’s key points targeting opposition areas with ATGMs are the hills of Rashu, al-Ballout, and Ruwaysat al-Kanisa, Kansaba town, and the Shalf and Tobal citadels activist and local resident Abdullah al-Mohammed told Enab Baladi.

Most attacks with ATGMs target locations about one kilometer away from Turkish observation posts in the Lattakia countryside. According to al-Mohammed, the attacks are launched from the Ruwaysat al-Kanisa and the Shalf Citadel outposts that are overseen by Russian forces.

The regime forces use several types of ATGMs, but the most widely used missiles by them are The laser-guided Kornet missile system that has a firing range of 5.5 kilometers. The Kornet anti-tank missile launchers are either ground-based or mounted on military vehicles. First introduced in 1994, the Kornet has a warhead weighing 17 kilograms and a total weight of 27 kilograms.

The regime forces also use the Konkurs wire-guided anti-tank missile, which has a firing range of four kilometers. The Konkurs missile is fired from a portable launching unit carried on a vehicle. The missile entered service in 1974 and weighs 15.6 kilograms.

What measures opposition factions undertook to limit threats of regime’s targeting? 

The spotter noted that the opposition military factions underestimated the gravity of the situation, but the Syrian Civil Defence has made efforts to open up secondary roads as a substitute to exposed roads to protect civilians.

The al-Fath al-Mubeen operations room is responsible for managing military operations in rural Lattakia, as well as in Idlib, northern Hama countryside, and part of the western Aleppo countryside. The operations room includes the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the National Liberation Front (NLF), and Jaysh al-Izza.

NLF’s spokesman captain Naji Mustafa confirmed to Enab Baladi that action had been taken against the regime’s missile attacks, such as erecting earthen berms on exposed roads to regime forces.

In addition, military factions have been placing artificial berms made with whatever available engineering equipment on exposed areas to provide cover, besides exploring alternative routes to the ones targeted by the regime.

The spokesman for the HTS’ military wing, Abu Khaled al-Shami, told Enab Baladi in a previous statement that measures had been taken to warn residents against crossing roads exposed to regime’s fortifications, while warning signs were put in place for the same purpose. 

The Civil Defence warned civilians not to approach contact points with regime forces or cross observed roads for their safety.

Mustafa previously told Enab Baladi that the al-Fath al-Mubeen targets regime’s ATGM and artillery launchers on a recurrent basis. The military factions posted on their social networking sites the targeting and bombing operations of regime-controlled hills with ATGM launching units.  

The ATGM bases and missiles are easily transported and deployed and do not require lots of human power to be launched, just a person to fire the missile and two or three assistants to move the launching base and missiles.

The Civil Defence has documented six attacks by the regime’s ATGMs on opposition areas in a week between 5 and 12 May.

On 12 May, two people were injured after their car was targeted on the main road in Badima town, while on 7 May, two people were killed and three were injured on the eastern outskirts of the al-Atareb city, western Aleppo.

On 6 May, a woman was killed, and her husband was injured on the Katyan-Zardna road in northeastern Idlib, while another three attacks in the vicinity of al-Atareb did not result in casualties.

On 5 March 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed on a ceasefire after meeting in the Russian capital Moscow. The agreement provided for establishing a security corridor and joint Russian-Turkish patrols on the M4 international highway between Trinbeh town in eastern Idlib and Ain al-Hawr village in western Idlib, the last stronghold for opposition factions.

However, the regime and Russian forces continued targeting opposition areas with all kinds of ground and aerial weaponry.

Between early January and 6 May of this year, Civil Defence teams responded to more than 420 attacks by the regime and its Russian ally. The attacks led to the killing of 53 persons, including ten children and nine women, and the injury of 136 people.

The attacks were concentrated on civilian homes, agricultural fields, and a number of vital installations in northwestern Syria.


Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Idlib, Iyad Abdul Jawad, contributed to preparing this report 

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