Syrian rebel army got surface-air missile, threat to Assad increases

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free-syrian-army-accuires-manpadAug 1, Damascus: Free Syrian Army rebels fighting the Assad regime obtained nearly two dozen man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), NBC News reported on Tuesday night. The missiles were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad’s departure with increasing vehemence.

The report did not provide details on the exact type of shoulder-fired missiles, though Turkey produces under license the Stinger missile which was used against Soviet helicopters in Afghanistan during the war there in the 1980’s according to Globalsecurity.org. Turkey also used its predecessor, the older Redeye system, Globalsecurity says.

This kind of weapon would be a significant threat to the helicopter gunships the Syrian government forces have deployed against rebel strongholds such as Aleppo, where intense fighting has raged for nearly two weeks.

In recent days, air operations against the rebels by Syrian government forces appear to have been stepped up, particularly around the contested city of Aleppo, making the rebels’ need for MANPADs more urgent.

Aleppo, a city of 2.5 million people, has remained the hotspot of Syria’s civil conflict since last week, when pro-government forces launched a massive assault on the city in a colossal push to regain control of key territories across the country. The Al-Watan newspaper proclaimed the fight for Aleppo “the mother of all battles.”

Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.

And even if the rebels do have the weapons, it is unclear whether they have the training to operate them effectively against Assad’s air forces in the immediate future.

Some conservative U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

According to UN data based on activist accounts, the Syrian conflict has already claimed up to 19,000 lives since it broke out in March 2011 and about 200,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries, including Turkey, which has registered 88,000 Syrian refugees so far.

News Gathered by India News

Posted by on Wednesday, August 1st, 2012. Filed under World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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