On March 16, Jaysh al-Islam spokesman Hamza Bayrakdar claimed that Jaysh al-Islam had shot down a helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) over the East Ghouta region after it had targeted it with a soviet-made 9K33 Osa short-range tactical surface-to-air missile system.
According to Bayrakdar, “experts were able to reactivate the OSA system once again.” This indicates that the system was inactive previously, likely due to the heavy jamming of the Russian Aerospace Forces of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Minutes after Bayrakdar’s announcement, several Syrian opposition and pro-government sources had denied that a helicopter was downed over East Ghouta. However, the sources confirmed that Jaysh al-Islam had launched a missile from its OSA system.
Jaysh al-Islam captured many OSA systems from several airbases of the Syrian Air Defense Forces (SADF) in East Ghouta in 2012. Some of the systems were in an operational condition and then were used by Jaysh al-Islam to shoot down several helicopters of the SyAAF during the last few years.
The last attempt of Jaysh al-Islam to shoot down a helicopter with the OSA system was on June 26, 2016. The system had not been used again until March 16, which again indicates that Jaysh al-Islam had been having some troubles operating the system.
The SAA was able to recapture at least one damaged OSA system from Jaysh al-Islam around the town of Aftris on March 12.
Syrian pro-government activists believe that Jaysh al-Islam used the OSA system as a propaganda stunt to boost the morale of its supporters. However, this stunt could cost Jaysh al-Islam a lot, as it violates the humanitarian ceasefire agreement in its last stronghold, the Duma district.
The SAA and the Russian Aerospace Forces will for sure take steps against Jaysh al-Islam soon, as the OSA system poses a serious threat to the civilian air traffic over Damascus governorate.
Update: Jaysh al-Islam released a video that don’t show the SyAAF helicopter being hit.
— جيش الإسلام (@jaishalislam) March 16, 2018