For the fifth day in a row, rebel forces repulsed attempts by regime ground forces to advance through the northern Hama countryside into Idlib province on Sunday, in a battle that opposition media has dubbed the “tank massacre” because of the high number of tank-kills rebels have inflicted on the regime.

Ibrahim a-Shamali, a correspondent with Umayya Media Center covering the battle, tells Syria Direct’s Ammar Hamou that a combination of anti-tank missiles and an “exposed” regime advance have allowed rebels to destroy 36 tanks so far.

Q: How many tanks have been destroyed in the battle?

According to my information and the reporting of the Umayya Media Center, the number of tanks destroyed from Wednesday morning until Saturday night is 36. In addition, other armor besides tanks like the BMP troop transports, heavy construction machinery [used for trenchworks] and 4x4’s have also been destroyed.

On the first day alone, 20 tanks and troop transports were destroyed. This was the result of the large number of tanks and heavy machinery they brought to the fronts in the northern Hama countryside, which included 45 tanks alone.

Q: What has allowed rebels to destroy so many tanks?

The rebels have the TOW anti-tank missiles which are very accurate in hitting their targets. Furthermore, it was the regime that began advancing on rebel controlled areas, so their armor was exposed to rebel missile positions.

Q: Videos from the battle suggest that TOW missiles have played a large role in the battle. Have the rebels received new shipments of anti-tank missiles?

After the Russians overtly joined the ground battle against the rebels and targeted positions of the moderate opposition, the Saudi Foreign Ministry made a statement that it was supporting the opposition with new advanced anti-armor weapons.