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Syria opposition manning
anti-aircraft systems: report

A rebel source told AKI news that rebels possess five working 9K33 OSA air-defense platforms.

Jaysh al-Islam operating an 9K33 OSA. (YouTube/Lens of Jaysh al-Islam)

BEIRUT – Armed Syrian opposition groups have allegedly begun to operate a number of anti-aircraft missile systems captured from regime forces, according to an Italian news agency.

 

On Monday, AKI news agency cited an opposition as saying that rebels “have recently begun to use” five Russian-manufactured 9K33 OSA short-range surface-to-air missile systems after acquiring the technical know-how to activate them.

 

The source explained that rebels captured six of the mobile missile platforms, five of them in working condition, since June 2013, however were they unable to break the codes necessary to successfully bring the systems online after accidentally destroying the manuals and codes that came with the anti-aircraft weapons. 

 

“It took more than two-years to solve this problem [of breaking the codes], but five of these systems are [operational],” a source—identified by AKI only as a “high-level officer defected from the regime”—claimed.

 

“These systems are deployed around Damascus and do not leave the [Rif Dimashq] province,” he said, adding that it is difficult to locate the 9K33 OSAs except for when they are online.

 

“They can have a serious impact only if used on a continual basis, however the fear of bombardment severely limits their use to only emergency situation,” the source added.

 

On October 15, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that one of its jets destroyed a 9K33 OSA hidden in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus with a precision airstrike.

 

The source speaking to AKI brought up the incident, saying that the Russian raid did not manage to knock out the anti-aircraft system, which was eventually restored to full capacity by rebel experts.

 

AKI’s report comes after Jaysh al-Islam, the largest opposition faction in Eastern Ghouta, claimed on June 26 that it downed a regime helicopter with a 9K33 OSA, releasing a video purporting to show the shoot-down.

 

A video released by Jaysh al-Islam purports to show the group downing a helicopter on June 26. (YouTube/Lens of Jaysh al-Islam)

 

A day later, Jaysh al-Islam’s spokesperson claimed another shootdown, saying that his group downed a MiG-29 over the eastern Qalamoun Mountains outside the Syrian capital.

 

However, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights denied that the plane was shot down, reporting that it managed to land in eastern Qalamoun’s Al-Seen Military Airport after it had been targeted.

 

Videos emerged in July 2013 showing Liwa al-Islam, the predecessor to Jaysh al-Islam, in control of an 9K33 OSA in eastern Damascus.

 

Liwa al-Islam in posesssion of an 9K33 OSA. (YouTube)

 

At the end of that month, the group released a video purporting to show it shooting down an aircraft, however the incident was never confirmed. In November 2013, after reconstituting itself as Jaysh al-Islam, the faction claimed yet another shoot down of a helicopter with an 9K33 OSA. 

 

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report.

Jaysh al-Islam operating an 9K33 OSA. (YouTube/Lens of Jaysh al-Islam)

They can have a serious impact only if used on a continual basis, however the fear of bombardment severely limits their use to only emergency situation.