As CJ Chivers reported on Monday, video evidence on YouTube suggests the Syrian rebels have SA-7 shoulder-fired, heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles. Pieces of the SA-7 have been sighted in Syria several times since the summer, but no one had seen it in action against government forces until earlier this week.The WSJ picked up the story today:
Video footage uploaded to the Internet earlier this week appears to show rebels in Aleppo using weapons that military experts and rebels say are heat-seeking, shoulder-fired missiles, the first documented instance in the conflict. Versions of the weapons—also known as man-portable air defense systems, or Manpads—have been smuggled into the country over the past two months through Turkey and to a lesser extent Lebanon, according to Syrian rebels and those who supply them arms through an “operations room” coordinated by regional governments. . .“Northern Syria is awash with advanced antitank and antiaircraft weapons. The situation has changed very quickly,” a Syrian involved in coordinating weapons procurement with regional states said. The Manpad transfers weren’t sanctioned by the regional states that have armed and financed Syria’s rebels since early this year, he added.
It doesn’t matter how the SA-7 got to Syria, but it’s there now. It was only a matter of time, really. Now we have to deal with the consequences. According to unverified footage uploaded to YouTube yesterday, the rebels shot down a regime helicopter, possibly using their new shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles. These weapons are ideal for shooting down aircraft—and not just military helicopters and fixed-wing jets, of course, but civilian aircraft as well.As in Libya, foreign governments are concerned that these weapons will fall into the wrong hands. In addition to flooding into Mali, weapons used to oust Qaddafi have also found their way to Gaza, as Ha’aretz reported this week:
A Strela (SA-7) anti-aircraft missile was fired at an Israeli helicopter over the Gaza Strip for the first time last week, the Israel Defense Forces has confirmed. Although the aircraft was not hit, the incident bears out intelligence assessments over the past few years that such missiles had reached the hands of terror groups in Gaza, principally Hamas.
As in Libya, weapons used in the Syrian civil war won’t all stay in Syria after the war ends.