Anti-tank guided missiles are an important component of the opposition’s ability to combat Syrian army heavy military equipment.
During the March rebel advance in northern Hama, the usage of US-made TOW anti-tank guided missiles was not limited to ‘moderate’ factions like Jaish al-Izza and Jaish al-Nasr. Radical islamist groups Ahrar al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) also used them actively.
On March 21, the joint forces of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Jash al-Izza and Jaish al-Nasr launched a large-scale offensive against government forces in the northern countryside of Hama. Later in March, Ahrar al-Sham joined their militant counterparts in this battle.
Below you will find a review of anti-tank guided missile strikes in northern Hama in March per factions:
The first usage during the Hama battle was recorded on March 22 when a Syrian Army T-72M1 was targeted on the Mahardeh Highway. The tank was not fully destroyed and the crew survived, receiving some injuries.
On March 23, Jaish al-Izza targeted what it said a truck armed with 37mm gun belonging to the 5th Division near the village of Asilah. Indeed, it was the truck armed with 23mm gun.
On the same day, Jaish Al-Izza used a Fagot ATGM imported from Eastern Europe to strike a 14.5 mm gun in Shalyut checkpoint.
On March 24, Jaish al-Izza claimed the destruction of a T-90 battle tank with a TOW missile in Ma’arzef, but in reality the targeted tank was a T-62M operated by the 5th Corps. It was not radically damaged and the crewmen were able to escape.
On March 25, Jaish a-Izza targeted a gathering of National Defense Forces and Syrian Arab Army fighters near Ma’arzef. Pro-militatn sources claimed that 150 pro-government fighters had been killed or injured. But the real numbers were 6 killed and 9 injured soldiers. The reason is that a TOW warhead is anti-armor HEAT and not anti-personnel HE.
On March 26, Jaish al-Izza used a TOW missile again targeting a T-62m tank operated by the 5th Corps. The tank wasn’t damaged harshly and its crewmen survived.
On March 27, Jaish al-Izza targeted a gathering of Syrian Arab Army fighters in Ma’arzef. Casualties were unknown.
On March 31, Jaish al-Izza destroyed a BMP-1 with one of its TOW missiles.
This faction used TOW missiles against government forces in northern Hama twice.
On March 25, the group destroyed a T-55 tank operated by the National Defense Forces of Qamhana.
On March 28, the group targeted an armed truck belonging to the National Defense Forces near Al-Sheeha.
The United States government has not supplied TOW missiles to this group officially. But the group was able to receive an access to missiles through US-supported Free Syrian Army factions based in Idlib.
Ahrar al-Sham used TOW missiles three times. All cases were filmed on March 28 near the village of Sakhr.
The first missile targeted a T-72 Ural tank destroying it completely.
The second missile targeted an ATGM crew position destroying it.
The third missile hit a T-72M1 tank. The crewmen and tank survived.
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham
This terrorist group also used US-manufactured TOW missiles during the northern Hama advance. The group likely got missiles from “moderate” members of the Free Syrian Army.
On March 24, HTS used a TOW missile destroying a Syrian army BMP-1 in Kawkab.
On March 25, a gathering of Syrian Army troops was hit around Ma’ardes.
In total, we reviewed 15 anti-tank guided missile strikes during the militant advance in northern Hama in March. The TOW missiles were used by all factions involved in the operation. A majority of the missile strikes was made by Jaish al-Izza and Jaish al-Nasr. But Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham also confirmed their access to these US-supplied weapons.