August 13, 2013
On August 5th, rebel forces wrested control of Menagh Airbase from the Syrian Army, following nearly a year of fighting between the two sides. Jamal, a 33-year-old electrical engineer who works for the Aleppo Media Center, tells Nuha Shabaan that the rebel victory at Menagh resulted from effective coordination between rebel factions and the use of an unorthodox military tactic: car bombs. Jamal believes that Syrian President Bashar Assad is living his “final hours” now, but insists that the rebels are bracing themselves for almost certain regime retribution.
Q: How did the rebels capture Menagh Airbase?
A: The most important airbase is now in rebel hands. Over the past 10 months, hundreds of people have died and thousands have been injured within the area around the airbase.
Q: What is the military significance of this airbase? How did the rebels manage to liberate it after all their previous attempts?
A: It has strategic importance as it lies in the north of Syria, where the rebels are attempting to take control. The rebels have managed to secure this area by themselves, without any external assistance. We have managed to take control because of the unity and coordination between fighters, and because [our plans] were kept secret.
Deadly fights occurred in the surrounding area in order for this airbase to be liberated. The regime’s air force delayed the process, as did the high elevation of the buildings there.
The rebels implemented a different strategy in order to liberate the base: car bombs. [They used] car bombs to destroy the fortifications of the base that were originally built by Russians. The final fight broke out after an armored vehicle full of six tons of explosives detonated, which led to substantial losses and chaos for the regime’s troops stationed there. Subsequently, a battle ensued for 12 hours, which ended in rebel victory.
Q: What does this development mean for the rebels and for the regime?
A: It was a huge victory for the rebels. They liberated the airbase less than 24 hours after Bashar’s speech during which he pledged to quell the uprising.
Q: Do you think that the regime will avenge the loss?
A: Yes, the rebels are ready to reply if the regime attempts revenge. Our next battle will be inside Damascus. The speech [Bashar gave] was to convince his allies that he is still strong, but indicators on the ground [tell a different story]. God willing, these are his last hours.