Syrian rebels, despite a lack of ammunition and arms, have stepped up attacks on different fronts with rockets
Syrian government forces run for cover during clashes with rebel fighters at Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on Thursday. The Syrian army has suffered major setbacks in the north of the country, its resources worn down by an increasing number of battle fronts and rebel attacks, analysts say. © - - AFP
Syrian rebels, despite a lack of ammunition and arms, have stepped up attacks on different fronts with rockets
<
>
Rana Moussaoui, AFP
Last updated: October 12, 2012

Syria army weakens as battle fronts multiply

The Syrian army has suffered major setbacks in the north of the country, its resources worn down by an increasing number of battle fronts and rebel attacks, analysts say.

The rebels, despite a lack of ammunition and arms, have stepped up attacks on different fronts with rockets, automatic weapons and mortar fire, inflicting a record number of army casualties.

This week, they severed the highway connecting Damascus to Aleppo, the main route for army reinforcements to the northern city where fighting has centered over the past three months.

Resupplying the army is "a fundamental aspect of the performance of the military," said Emile Hokayem, Middle East expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

While army units, stationed across the Syrian countryside, were initially well-stocked with supplies and ammunition, "over time it becomes very difficult to reach them," he said.

"The number of fronts have multiplied to the extent that they (the army) can no longer count them," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The regular army is fighting in hundreds of places. Before, the battle was concentrated in Homs (centre), but today it has reached Aleppo, the coast, the Turkish border areas and the provinces of Damascus and Deir Ezzor (east)."

In a cartoon posted on Facebook on Friday, a panting bull tagged "the regime" is running in circles, surrounded by six bullfighters wearing the flag of the Syrian revolt and waving red capes in front of him.

The bullfighters are labeled with the names of the strife-torn provinces.

"In several cases, the forces of President Bashar al-Assad had to abandon the battlefield or surrender because they did not have enough supplies, they did not have enough gasoline for their armoured vehicles," said Hokayem.

"This is what happened in Maaret al-Numan," the analyst added.

This strategic city, the gateway to the troops sent to Aleppo, fell on Tuesday to the rebel fighters as the army "checkpoints were isolated, they had no gasoline."

Analysts say the army's superiority, notably its air supremacy, are no longer decisive in the conflict which has dragged on for 19 months and left troops demoralised by defections and deprived of reinforcements.

"The qualitative edge, weaponry and technology that Assad has is still present but you cannot deploy it where your manpower has lost morale and is very weary," said Hokayem.

"When you have hundreds of insurgents ambushing a checkpoint and inflicting huge losses on the army, air raids do not change the equation," said Abdel Rahman.

For experts, the numerical superiority of the army -- 350,000 troops -- is only theoretical. Some have deserted, while others have been confined to their barracks.

Only the well equipped and elite units are considered trustworthy by the regime.

According to Hokayem, air raids are mainly used to give confidence to the troops on the ground, but "technology alone won't deliver victory to Assad."

A Syrian security official said that the army is working -- thus far unsuccessfully -- to eliminate rebel pockets in Homs province in order to free up troops for battle zones in the north, such as Aleppo.

Hokayem said that "in many places, the Syrian military now is akin to an occupation force more than anything else."

"The loyalists are scared to death every time we attack," said Colonel Abdel Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a rebel leader in Aleppo. "At night, they are so afraid that they sleep in their tanks."

"We are fighting in our own towns and villages. We know every corner, while the soldiers deploying from other provinces have no idea about the territory," he said.

blog comments powered by Disqus