Aug 14, 2012
The Syrian rebels’ Western and Arab sponsors have ratcheted up their military assistance by giving them tanks, 20 Russian-made T-62 tanks from Libya,DEBKAfile reports. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the nod for the transfer to the rebels of their first heavy weapons during her brief visit to Istanbul Saturday, Aug. 13, as the prelude to the next step of the war. Qatar is paying for the tanks.
The Obama administration first agreed to Turkey arming the Free Syrian Army with FIM-92 anti-air Stinger missiles, as DEBKAfile disclosed Aug. 11.
Monday, Aug. 13, for the first time in the 18-month revolt against the Assad regime, rebels shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet, a Mig-21, over the northeastern town of Deir al-Zour, using shoulder-carried Stingers. The Syrian government claimed it had crashed because of technical problems, but the rebels quickly released photos of the captured pilot, Col. Rafiq Mohammed Suleiman, surrounded by their guns.
The Syrian conflict has thus entered a new phase, the prelude, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, to the creation of the first safe havens inside the country, which the FSA and other rebel groups will now be armed to defend.
This article was posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 1:47 am