Hat tip to Eliot Higgins, for his contributions to this article
On Tuesday we published the analysis "Someone is Arming the Insurgents...and It's Working", backed by videos showing Free Syrian Army units in possession of weapons that had not been seen in the Syrian conflict up to this point. One stockpile, filmed by State TV, showed literally hundreds of rockets and weapons, captured by the Syrian army. This evidence suggested that large quantities of weapons have been given to specific insurgent factions by an outside source, possibly a foreign backer.
It is not just the appearance of the weapons that is significant. It is the coincidence of their arrival with a new insurgent strategy of coordinated attacks from Daraa in the south to Aleppo in the north, most importantly against Damascus in between. The push could lead to a significant change in the momentum of the war.
On Thursday, Higgins and I unearthed more evidence of this development. A Free Syrian Army group from Daraa, the Ababil Horan Brigade, has moved from the south and have entered the Qaddam district in southern Damascus. They are carrying M79 Osa anti-tank weapons, at least one RBG-6 grenade launcher, and at least one M60 recoilless rifle, spotted on 3 February.
This video reportedly shows the fighters, in a convoy, traveling to Al Qaddam.
Ababil Houran entering Qaddam on foot. Note the M79 carried by the soldier who hides his face:
This appears to show the same fighters firing the M79, reportedly at a tank. At the start of the video, a man carries the RBG-6 grenade launcher as well:
The RBG-6 in action:
Our analysis is ongoing, but it appears that some fighters from this group moved into Damascus weeks ago to prepare for this new assault. Now a large convoy has arrived, new weapons in tow.
The escalation in fighting, and the arming of the units, all from the Free Syrian Army, suggests a coordinated arming of a particular section of the insurgency for a coordinated series of attacks.
Videos like the one below, reportedly showing a tank burning in Al Qaddam last night, reinforce the argument:
It is too early to tell whether this new firepower will have a lasting impact; however, the armament comes after weeks in which the momentum in much of Daraa, Idlib, Aleppo and Damascus has shifted in the insurgents' favour.
The obvious question remains ---- who is sending these weapons to the opposition? We are still working on the answer.
However, beyond the source is the outcome: someone significant is arming the insurgency, and those arms are propelling them in an offensive attacking the heart of President Assad's regime.