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Video: Hezbollah drone strikes rebels south of Aleppo

Footage released Tuesday shows what appear to be Chinese-made MZD-2 munitions dropped from pilotless aircraft onto rebel positions

Screengrab from footage of Hezbollah drone dropping munitions onto rebel positions in Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo. (War Media Center/YouTube)
Screengrab from footage of Hezbollah drone dropping munitions onto rebel positions in Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo. (War Media Center/YouTube)
Screengrab from footage of Hezbollah drone dropping munitions onto rebel positions in Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo. (War Media Center/YouTube)

A first-of-its-kind video released online Tuesday by a media source affiliated with Hezbollah appears to show the group bombing Syrian rebels in the village of Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo, from the air using a pilotless drone.

 

 

 

 

 

The footage shows three separate bombings; one of “a [rebel] leader’s base,” the second of a pick-up truck purportedly belonging to “gunmen,” the third of a tent-like structure ostensibly housing “a gathering of gunmen.” In the third clip, two canisters filled with ball bearings are seen falling beneath the camera, prompting a figure on the arid ground below to start running before two small clouds of dust erupt upon the canisters’ impact.

 

The bombs appear to be Chinese-made MZD-2 submunitions, also known as Type-90s. According to Human Rights Watch, Hezbollah previously used these same submunitions against Israel during the July 2006 war, when they were placed in large quantities inside Chinese-made Type-81 122mm rockets to form cluster munitions. They consist of an armor-piercing shaped charge explosive encased in a cylinder filled with 3.5mm steel ball bearings.

 

 

Burgeoning drone program

 

The first recorded use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by Hezbollah came in October 2012 after a drone entered Israel from the Mediterranean Sea, flew 55 km inside Israeli airspace and was later shot down over the Negev Desert.

 

Israeli politicians accused the Party of God of responsibility for the rogue UAV, which was later confirmed in a speech by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.

 

Nasrallah publicly acknowledged that the drone, which he claimed was Iranian-made but assembled in Lebanon, was a part of a Hezbollah reconnaissance mission.

 

“The Resistance in Lebanon sent a sophisticated reconnaissance drone from Lebanon over the [Mediterranean] Sea, which it traversed for hundreds of kilometers, after which it entered [Israeli airspace] and hovered over many important locations before it was discovered by the Israeli air force,” the party chief said. 

 

Israeli media also accused the Party of God of violating its airspace with a second drone in February 2015.

 

Hezbollah UAVs in Syria

 

The use of drones by Hezbollah became more prevalent after the group’s public entry into the conflict in Syria in 2013.

 

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV regularly aired footage taken from UAVs during offensives in Syria’s Qalamoun region and the campaign in Lebanon’s mountainous northeastern border region in 2015.

 

In one such instance, Al-Manar aired drone footage of party fighters ambushing several Al-Nusra Front militants on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

 

However, Tuesday’s UAV footage from Aleppo was the first from that region of Syria as well as the first to demonstrate the party’s offensive drone capabilities.

 

Hezbollah in Aleppo

  

Hezbollah has reportedly lost at least a dozen from its ranks during a week of fierce fighting in Syria’s second city. In an audio clip claimed by opposition sources to have been leaked from the party, an alleged Hezbollah fighter complains of being abandoned on the battlefield by Syrian, Iranian, and Afghan allies. “They all left us […] the army disintegrated,” a man with a south Lebanese accent is heard saying.

 

The group is reported to have since called in reinforcements, as has the Syrian army, aiming to stave off further rebel gains in the highly strategic city. The rebels’ Jaysh al-Fateh (‘Army of Conquest’) coalition, for its part, has vowed to press on until it “liberate[s] all of Aleppo.”

Screengrab from footage of Hezbollah drone dropping munitions onto rebel positions in Khalsa, southwest of Aleppo. (War Media Center/YouTube)