A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Syria Claims to Have Retaken al-‘Eis After Several Days, Loss of Aircraft

Syrian regime reports say that they have now recovered the strategic town of al-‘Eis several days after it was taken by Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra launched a major offensive south of Aleppo as fighting has intensified and the cessation of hostilities has been unraveling. Al-‘Eis, about 12 miles south of Aleppo, and its adjacent hill are well positioned to control the M5 highway just to the west, the main motorway connecting Aleppo to Damascus via Hama and Homs, and thus the urban spine of Syria. The M5 is still in rebel hands in several places.

Pro-regime media say the town and hill were retaken after heavy fighting, by Syrian Army troops and the 65th Iranian Special Forces Brigade with support from National Defense Forces militia, Hizbullah, and elements of the Iraqi al-Nujaba' Shi‘ite militia.

Do the Rebels have Shoulder-Launched SAMs?

Assuming the reports of the recovery of al-‘Eis are confirmed, it was recovered in about three days after heavy fighting, according to both sides. Yesterday (April 5) both sides confirmed (and multiple videos documented) the downing of a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter-bomber over al-‘Eis. Although Nusra said it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, but the Syrian Government said it was a missile. Shoulder-launched SAMs have not been confirmed to be in rebel hands, particularly jihadi groups like al-Nusra. If confirmed it could represent a significant escalation.

The pilot elected (video below) and is now held by al-Nusra.

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