Syria Update June 8, 2013. (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
Early death toll: 70 killed including 22 civilians.
Friday’s death toll: 110 killed, including 36 civilians and among these civilians 5 women and 3 men were tortured to death by regime forces.
The opposition’s lost battle for Qusayr was sponsored by Saudi Arabia, and counter to popular mythology was the first to be so backed (other than efforts on the Jordanian border. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/06/06/syria_is_now_saudi_arabias_problem?page=full
Syria’s National Coalition again ruled out attending the U.S.-Russian sponsored peace talks in Geneva. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/syria-opposition-again-rules-out-peace-talks Georges Sabra said that the Syrian opposition needs military assistance, not talks.
Lina Sinjab’s farewell to Damascus. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22826636
Interview with Ahrar al-Sham leader Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL5dzLlmORI&feature=youtu.be
Refugees and Relief:
The United Nations launched its largest ever appeal for aid for war-torn Syria. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-22813207#TWEET781827
Syrian refugees in Lebanon exceed 511,000 according to the UNHCR.
Aleppo province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+aleppo+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152ff85ac00b17c9:0xf68ea3d8dc74b61b,Aleppo+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=R9DLUKfTFoWO0QHBuIHABA&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
10 opposition fighters were killed in clashes and also bombardment in Jabal Shweihina incuding a local commander. A sniper killed a man in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood. Eight regular troops were killed in Aleppo today.
The FSA continued to besiege the Aleppo Central Prison. https://twitter.com/TaziMorocco/status/343458580789342209/photo/1
Regime forces bombed the area between Anadan and Hraitan.
A surface-to-surface missile killed 3 civilians in the town of Kafarhamra.
Three opposition fighters were killed by the YPG in clashes on the road between the viallages of Jeibara and Beineh in the Efrin area today. On Friday, the YPG in the Efrin area took over the villages of Basila in Nahiyat Shirawa, and Bashmera. This followed two days of heavy clashes with the opposition which had attacked the Kurdish villages on the 25th of May and besieged them. Clashes continued on Friday in the villages of al-Zeyara and Beineh. Also on Friday, regime forces in the Mengh military airport targeted one of the houses in the village of Mengh, setting it on fire.
Damascus province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+damascus+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x1518e6dc413cc6a7:0x69e5b88ad5b0817b,Damascus+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=_s_LUPTwHqWw0AHTtYDQAg&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
An unidentified body was found in the Hamish area of the Barzeh neighborhood. A large explosion was heard in al-Zahira.
In clashes and regime bombardment, five opposition fighers were killed in al-Maliha, Erbin and Hazarma. 1 man who was part of a medical team trying to evacuate the wounded from Douma was killed by regime fire. A man was killed in unknown circumstances in Zamalka. A man and his son were discovered after being killed in their home in al-Tal.
Regime bombardment of Douma killed 2 children, yesterday (Friday). Also, the regime forces bombarded areas of Darayya. There were clashes around Mu’adamiyya; one opposition fighter was killed in clashes near Erbin by the ring road and the airforce bombarded the village of Ras al-Ein (all yesterday).
Dara`a province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+daraa+province&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15195fa1016e8de7:0xff6b41761235d49c,Daraa+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=u9DLUPDfIcXq0gGRwIHADQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
In clashes in Bosra, Inkhil, Na’ima and the city of Dar`a, 4 opposition fighters were killed and one was a local commander. 8 civilians were killed in the province today — the regime forces tortured to death 2 civilians from the Der’a refugee camp who were being detained. 4 civilians were killed by bombardment on Jassim, Nimir, and Inkhil. 1 child was killed by the gunfire in the town of Bosra al-Sham. 1 man died of his wounds from the bombardment several days ago on the al-Kashif in Dar`a.
Deir az-Zur province:
1 defected soldier was killed in clashes in the city of Deir az-Zour. Also, the following were killed from May 6 – 7 and have been identified:
Noor Mohammad Alhajir, a 13 year old girl
Mowaffaq Dawoud Alabdllah
Mahmoud Khaled Alissa
Hamad Hamoud Albakdsh
Hama province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=hama+governorate&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15248293d5052f19:0x6e6de1581c39ed96,Hama+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=CdPLUKKbIqyF0QHB94HQAw&sqi=2&ved=0CIEBELYD
Medical sources in the city of al-Salamiyah confirmed that Islamist opposition factions killed 11 members of the Syrian Armed Forces and the National Defense Forces when they attacked the Nahiyat al-Se’en checkpoint. One of the dead was an officer with the rank of captain. More than 20 regime forces were injured. The opposition fighters also suffered losses. 1 opposition fighter was killed in clashes near the al-Emya checkpoint at the town of al-Sa’en.
Homs province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=homs+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x15230eeab10528a7:0x65655b88027a8699,Homs+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=BFPRUM6RBaTI0AHw1ICoCQ&ved=0CDMQ8gEwAA
1 rebel was killed while trying to evacuate the injured from al-Quseir city. 7 civilians, including a woman, were killed by a car bomb in the al-Adawi area of Homs (a mostly Alawi area). http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/06/08/Car-bomb-kills-7-people-in-central-Syrian-city.html
Syrian regime forces took over the last opposition-held area in al-Qusayr at eastern Buweida village, four days after al-Qusayr fell to Hizbullah and the Syrian army. Buweida appears to be in ruins. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/nowsyrialatestnews/syrian-regime-says-it-overruns-last-rebel-bastion-near-al-qusayr
Idlib province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=idlib+governorate+google+map&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x152500e6cc6ed27b:0xe59a7e2f651fc24c,Idlib+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=51PRUIiREsaB0AHN_YD4BQ&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
On Friday, 2 women and a man were killed by the bombardment on the village of Megher al-Hamam, near the town of Habit.
Raqqa province: https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=map+of+ar-raqqah+province,+Syria&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x153719cee4c60ce7:0x9d4657e00e899ab6,Ar-Raqqah+Governorate,+Syria&gl=us&ei=PJ_bUKrTBObF0AGMuYHwBw&sqi=2&ved=0CC8Q8gEwAA
2 civilians, an adult and a child were killed by the helicopter bombardment on the city of al-Tabqa.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari says the country is not sending fighters to Syria. (Does that mean they are volunteering and arriving on their own?) http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/06/08/Iraqi-FM-says-Baghdad-not-sending-fighters-to-Syria-.html
On Friday, Russia’s Putin made it known that he would like to send Russian forces to the Golan Heights to relieve the Austrian peacekeeping forces there, (being withdrawn by Austria.) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/putin-offers-russian-troops-as-golan-heights-peacekeepers-to-replace-austrian-forces-8649706.html
However, the United Nations responded that members of the UN Security Council cannot send peacekeeping troops, therefore it rejected Russia’s offer. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2013/06/08/UN-says-it-can-t-accept-Russia-s-offer-of-Golan-troops.html
In Lebanon, fighting related to the conflict in Syria once again erupted in Tripoli’s souks. http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/86186-fighting-erupts-again-in-central-tripoli-s-old-souks
Wounded anti-regime fighters who fell in al-Qusayr were evacuated to Lebanon and are being treated in Ba’lbak area hospitals (al-Jazeera reports that they went to Shtoura to the hospital) (I wonder if that includes the Imam Khomeini Hospital, the primo facility in Ba’lbak, somehow doubt that). http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/86173-dozens-of-anti-regime-fighters-including-10-lebanese-arrive-at-bekaa-hospitals-from-qusayr
More than 90 wounded have been evacuated.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Shaykh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Shaykh condemned Hizbullah following its intervention in Syria. http://www.yalibnan.com/2013/06/08/top-saudi-cleric-urges-end-to-hezbollah-aggression/
I thought you might benefit from this explanation of RPGs, from the Encyclopedia of U.S. Middle Eastern Wars, edited by Spencer Tucker (and myself and Dave Zebecki as assisting editors) and following that a few questions on Russia.
Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG)
A short-range, shoulder-fired, infantry antitank and anti-personnel weapon. Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPG) have also been used from time to time against aircraft, especially helicopters. RPG has been popularly translated as “rocket-propelled grenade,” but the acronym actually stands for Ruchnoy Protivotankovy Granatomyot, Russian for “handheld antitank grenade launcher.” In the 1950s, the production was taken over by the Bazalt State Research and Production Enterprise, which continues to produce the Russian-made RPG today. The RPG fires a fin-stabilized, oversized explosive charge to penetrate armored vehicles. RPG warheads, ranging from 70mm to 85mm in diameter, come in thermobaric (fuel-air explosive), fragmentation, HEAT (high explosive anti tank), and high explosive configurations. The most successful and commonly used RPG version today is the RPG-7 and its variants. It has been in service since 1961, when it replaced the earlier RPG-2 that had been introduced in 1949.
The RPG is a single-shot weapon, requiring reloading after each firing. In its regular military deployment, the RPG is used by a two-person team, with the shooter carrying the weapon and two additional rounds of ammunition. The second team member carries an additional three rounds of ammunition, and is also trained to fire the weapon if the primary shooter is incapacitated. A well-trained RPG team can fire 4-6 rounds per minute.
The weapon is comprised of a reusable smooth-bore, 40mm tube that fires a front-loaded projectile. The tube is 37.4 inches long and weighs 17.4 pounds unloaded. With the grenade loaded, it weighs 22 pounds. The weapon is controlled by two pistol-grip handles with an unusual configuration, as the trigger mechanism is located in the forward handle, with the rear grip used for additional stability. The grenade itself is made up of two parts, the warhead with a sustainer motor, and the booster charge. These parts must be screwed together before loading and firing.
The RPG is recoilless, with the recoil of the rocket exiting through the breech exhaust opening. The grenade is a rocket-assisted projectile and is ejected from the launcher tube by a small strip powder charge at a velocity of about 380 feet per second. After traveling about 36 feet, a sustainer rocket ignites and increases the grenade’s velocity to a maximum 960 feet per second. After initial launch, a set of fins opens in the tail section of the projectile. These fins cause the projectile to spin, improving stability in flight.
Firing the new PG-7VR tandem-charge ammunition, the RPG-7 can penetrate nearly 2 feet of steel with explosive reactive armor, 5 feet of reinforced concrete, 6.5 feet of brickwork, or 12 feet of log or sand. The RPG round can put a 2-inch hole in walls, but does not knock down the entire wall. It is highly effective in urban warfare against troops inside buildings. In this manner, it was used to great effect against American forces during the Vietnam War at the Battle of Hue in 1966.
The RPG-7 has two standard sights, a primary 2.5 power optical telescopic sight, and a permanently-attached iron sight as a backup. In addition, night-vision sights may be attached in place of the optical sight. Two factors make accurate firing difficult, particularly at longer ranges, even in ideal weather conditions. First, the shooter must estimate range with a high degree of precision. This is helped greatly by the optical sight, but remains a crucial factor in achieving a hit. Second, the weight of the grenade at the forward end of the RPG makes it difficult to hold the weapon steady for any length of time. This means that the shooter must line up his sights and fire quickly. Without practice, a shooter can hit a vehicle-sized target most of the time at ranges of 150-300 feet. With training, the RPG has an effective range of 1,000 feet against moving targets and about 1,600 feet against stationary targets.
Unlike most projectiles in flight, the RPG’s grenade flies into a crosswind, and not with the direction of the wind. This fact makes aiming the RPG in a crosswind extremely complicated. In a 7-mph crosswind, a first round hit at 600 feet may be expected about 50 percent of the time. Insurgents have often compensated for poor accuracy by firing large numbers of RPGs at a single target. This phenomenon was reported against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, during the Afghanistan-Soviet War, and against the Israelis in the Summer 2006 Lebanon War by Hezbollah.
The short effective range of the RPG forces the shooter to get close to the target, either by advancing or allowing the target to approach until within effective range. Rapid firing is critical, and the launcher is carried loaded to speed the firing procedure. When fired, the RPG emits a telltale puff of exhaust smoke. This factor, combined with the short range, necessitates evasive action by the shooter immediately after firing, unless the action is meant to be a suicide mission.
The RPG can be fired from the standing, crouching, or prone positions. Low “backsplash,” or rocket exhaust, also allows the use of the RPG from enclosed spaces, like rooms in fortified positions, making the RPG particularly useful in the covered, short-range combat environment of urban operations. This feature has been used to considerable advantage in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq since 2003.
Originally designed as an antitank weapon, the RPG was copied from the World War-era German Panzerfaust and the American-made 3.5inch rocket launcher known as the Bazooka. Improvements in armor technology, particularly the incorporation of gapped and reactive armor in main battle tanks in the 1970s and 1980s, reduced the effectiveness of RPGs as antitank weapons. However, an advanced grenade, the PG-7BR, featuring a tandem two-stage warhead designed to defeat reactive armor, was introduced in 1988.
Nonetheless, with the development of precision anti tank guided missiles (ATGM) such as the Russian AT-3 Sagger, deployed in 1963, and the American BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided (TOW) missile deployed in 1971, use of RPGs against tanks declined considerably and they were adapted thereafter mainly for use against personnel, fixed positions, and light vehicles. In addition, the fact that the RPG round self explodes after a range of about 3,000 feet allows it to be used as a form of light artillery, spraying the target area with shrapnel.
In Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, RPGs shot down two American UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. This triggered an extensive battle between U.S. forces and local militiamen, resulting in the deaths of 17 Americans. That in turn ultimately led to the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in March 1994. Specially modified RPGs were also used by the mujaheddin against Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan in the 1980s, to great effect.
In its antipersonnel role, the RPG fires two different grenades. One, a thermobaric, air fuel explosive round, TBG-7VR, has the destructive equivalent of an artillery projectile or a 120mm mortar shell. The second, a fragmentation round, OG-7V, is particularly effective against fire emplacements. In addition, the HEAT round sprays lethal metal fragments as far as 500 feet from the point of impact.
The RPG, while originally Russian, and still produced in that country, is also produced in over a dozen other countries, and is in use in some 40 countries worldwide. In addition to regular armed forces, RPGs can be found in the arsenals of almost every non-state military organization in the world, including terrorist groups.
RPGs are easy to use and maintain and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and like the AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle, RPGs are readily available on the black market at low cost. These factors, coupled with low training requirements and ease of use, have made it a chosen weapon of insurgents, terrorist groups, and other non-state militias around the world.
The RPG has been used extensively in Vietnam, Afghanistan (both during the Afghanistan-Soviet War and in the ongoing Operation ENDURING FREEDOM since 1991), Chechnya, throughout the Middle East, and Africa. It was also used by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) against British troops in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.
In Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, RPGs have been the favored weapon of various insurgent forces. While they are not capable of penetrating the M-1 Abrams tank, they have been successfully used against light-armored vehicles and U.S. and coalition infantry forces. Nevertheless, a perfectly-aimed RPG-7 can disable tanks, which can cause problems of a different sort. In August 2006 and again in January 2008, an RPG-29, the most potent RPG to date, did partially penetrate the FV4034 Challenger 2 tank, which is the United Kingdom’s main battle tank.
Additional versions, the RPG-26 and RPG-27, are single-shot, disposable antitank rocket launchers, similar to the American M-72 Light Antitank Weapon (LAW), entered into service in 1989. Firing a variant of the tandem two-stage warhead developed for the RPG-7, these are for use only against armored vehicles.
Elliot P. Chodoff
See also: Aircraft, Helicopters; Antitank Weapons; Afghanistan-Soviet War; ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation, Overview; Helicopters, Role in Soviet-Afghan War; IRAQI FREEDOM, Operation, Overview; Iraq Insurgency; Mujaheddin; Somalia and Intervention in.
Brassey’s Infantry Weapons of the World. New York: Crane Russak, 1979.
Jane’s Infantry Weapons, 2008-2009. Coulsdon, Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group, 2008.
U.S. Army. Soviet RPG-7 Antitank Grenade Launcher. Fort Monroe, VA: United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, 1976: Bulletin No. 3.
Syria and Russia
Q. Why does Russia support the regime of Bashar al-Assad?
Q. Did communism flourish in Syria?
*personal witnessing of alleged communists arrested by the H. al-Assad regime.
Q. Has the Syrian Communist Party supported the revolution?
A. No. (However, some former communists are part of the revolution)