Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Islamic State's spring offensive: Hulayhilah






Hulayhilah, located in between Tadmur and al-Sukhna, was captured on the 13th of May 2015 by fighters of the Islamic State. The industrial town of Hulayhilah is a support facility for the gasfields and pipelines located throughout Central Syria, and served as their administrative and industrial heart. After the fall of al-Sukhna in October 2013, Hulayhilah became a stronghold for regime forces, which launched a successful counter-attack from here while supported by artillery then recently moved to Hulayhilah.

Although al-Sukhna was already back under regime control after just one week in 2013, and the fighters of the Islamic State never pushed into the direction of al-Sukhna after that, the heavy weaponry present at Hulayhilah never left the industrial town. While deploying heavy weaponry near a potential hot zone just in case does indeed make sense, stationing this kind of equipment in small, hard to defend towns creates needlessly large risks. The establishment of numerous large and well-guarded forward operation bases would likely serve the regime better instead.

Thus, in typical SyAA fashion, the town was massively overstocked with arms and ammunition, far surpassing the needs of the defenders. In terms of firepower, Hulayhilah was the greatest of all regime bases from the East of Tadmur to the West of Deir ez-Zor.

Apart from housing several tanks, artillery and MRLs, Hulayhilah also saw use as a forward operating base for Suqour al-Sahraa' (Desert Falcons), a detachment of which was present during the assault. More importantly, the town served as a communication hub to communicate with regime forces, mostly Suqour al-Sahraa', patrolling the vast Syrian desert. The loss of such modern equipment is a heavy blow to the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA), yet slightly softened by the fact that the regime has nobody to communicate with in Central Syria anymore.

The assault on Hulayhilah was believed to have been conducted at around the same time as the assault on al-Sukhna and Arak, leaving the regime troops no chance to warn and aid each other. The fact that the recent offensive came at a time when the Islamic State was thought to have partly been brought to a halt under pressure from coalition airstrikes and assaults on the Syrian and Iraqi fronts must also have played a role in the regime's incompetence in defending their positions in Cental Syria. A video covering a part of assault on al-Hail, Arak, Hulayhilah and T3 can be seen here (WARNING: GRAPHIC).


The tactics used during the assault on Hulayhilah were strikingly similar as the same as the ones used during the assault on al-Sukhna; First, the high ground opposite to Hulayhilah was targeted, stormed and then captured, and the 14.5mm KPV and 122mm D-30 howitzer found here immediately used against the defenders of Hulayhilah itself.





Although the defenders of Hulayhilah could count on more men and heavy weaponry than their adversaries, the fighters of the Islamic State were already too close to the town to be hit with artillery. Instead of utilising the remaining weapon systems, or making a last ditch effort to counter and possible stop this sudden assault by the fighters of the Islamic State while entrenched in the many buildings in Hulayhilah, most entered the nearest vehicle they could find and drove off or fled on foot, leaving their comrades behind.

The fighters of the Islamic State subsequently chased some of the fleeing regime forces down, which stood no chance in the vast and empty desert. Others that didn't flee fought to their deaths or were captured and executed, some of them after being found hiding in two vehicle pits.





The large arsenal present at Hulayhilah thus saw no action during the the Islamic State's spring offensive. The resident garrison was simply not aware of any assault going on in the al-Sukhna region, and as a result, none of the weapons systems were manned, let alone turned into the right direction. Even though Hulayhilah was well stocked and equipped to engage any enemy movement in the al-Sukhna region, the defenders never expected any assault on the town itself and therefore couldn't defend themselves against the relatively small force of Islamic State fighters.

One of the Syrian Arab Air Force's (SyAAF) Su-22M4s from the nearby T4 airbase attempted to raise the moral of the defending regime forces from the air but its ordnance missed the Islamic State's fighters. This single sortie marked the end of the SyAAF's 'aerial campaign' in the al-Sukhna region offensive.


The timing of the Islamic State's attack proved crucial, as capturing both al-Sukhna and Hulayhilah at the same time prevented regime forces at Hulayhilah using their artillery to support the defenders of al-Sukhna, and prevented regime forces at al-Sukhna to use their tanks to support the defenders of Hulayhilah.




Advanced communications equipment, such as the Chinese TS-504 troposcatter pictured below, was among the equipment captured. This is the second loss of such a system in a month, only a small number of which were delivered at the end of the previous decade.


















The Ghaneema (spoils of war) consisted of various types of light and heavy weaponry, some of which seen below. Large caches of small arms and munitions were found at the site, including PG-7 warheads, large amounts of artillery shells for the resident artillery and a rare machine gun which was not yet seen in Syria before: the Hungarian KGK general purpose machine gun.

Among the heavy equipment captured were at least two 122mm D-30 howitzers, two 130mm M-46 field guns and one Iranian produced 107mm Fajr-1 single-barelled multiple rocket launcher (MRL). The graffiti on the D-30 reads: من أملاك الدولة الإسلامية - ''Owned by the Islamic State'' while the text on the M-46 reads: دولة الخلاف  - ''The Caliphate''.




Self-propelled artillery included one 122mm 2S1 self-propelled howitzer and one 122mm BM-21 MRL. At least one tank was also captured; one T-72M1, rendered useless by the fact that the barrel of its 125mm main gun has been destroyed, likely caused by a malfunction of the gun system.







Recommended Articles

The Islamic State's spring offensive: al-Sukhna
Islamic State captures Tadmur (Palmyra) in new sudden streak of offensives
The spoils of Tadmur (Palmyra) airbase, captured by the Islamic State

25 comments:

  1. " found hiding in two vehicle pits ".
    Could you please explain what you mean by the preceding ?
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Watch the video and you will see, around 20-30 soldiers massacred in two vehicle pits used for repairing the underside of vehicles.

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    2. You'll have to watch the video for that.

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    3. watch the video and you'll understand.

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  2. The T-72 isnt "rendered useless" it can always be used as a VBIED, or repaired or salvaged for parts. In this war, nothing is useless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They could turn it into an APC

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    2. Possible no uses other than SVBIED:

      1. Armored Engineer Vehicle, just use the main gun for a Flamethrower mount and battering ram, and add a dozerblade

      2. Removed the turret and use it as a driver training vehicle or keep turret on and use as a training tank

      3. Turn into a SPG.

      4. Try it as a test bed for a SPAAG

      5. Decoy for bombs

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  3. Very informative. Congratulations to the writer! The SAA is making huge mistakes and paying a heavy toll for it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Video link(https://isdarat.org/10947) is dead :(
    PS: Anyway great article, as always...

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  5. Im at a loss as to how inept the syrian army leadership is. How does the IS overrun seemingly well defended and armed garrisons with ease. Why do the defenders flee into the desert instead of standing and fighting. Death is probably pretty certain when the run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Richard Roberts3 June 2015 at 23:29

      I agree. What is worrying is that the IS feel themselves superior to these SAA/AF garrisons and the garrisons are reacting like they believe that to be the case too. It reminds me of reading about France in 1940 when the French Army (or large parts of it) did not believe they could defeat the Germans.
      There are high calibre SAA and Hezbollah formations but they can't be everywhere. What will be most concerning will be the lack of a counter-offensive. I.e. if these IS gains are consolidated.

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  6. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/03/us-mideast-crisis-blinken-idUSKBN0OJ0I620150603

    And they arrived by this number how?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just make a case to boost moralle aganist recent defeats

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  7. https://sendvid.com/s53yu7wu Warning graphic! NSFW! Showcases IS latest offensive in Aleppo.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The guy at ~5:40 - is he holding a tandem RPG warhead? If so, SAAF T-72s don't stand much of a chance, even with ERA applique armor.

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    2. I think its fairly safe to say the AT weapons floating around the Levant far outstrip the defenses of any SAAF equipment. Not a good time to be a tanky.

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  8. In your expert opinion, is the Assad regime doomed based on the Syrian Army's recent performance/loss of morale, or are they just contracting to defend an Alawite heartland where the real hard-core units will fight to the death?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. they aren't contracting on their on free will. they have had some major setbacks that they will have a tough time recovering from. They desperately need more manpower and better leadership.

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  9. So it looks like a bunch of media is flipping the fuck out over the inflated Hummer stats - http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/04/hell-on-wheels/

    Interesting to watch a thread of disinformation grow and grow and grow

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  10. There was plenty of time for West to get off oil but they were hooked on the money. Now they will be forced to as IS controls all the oil fields and the Strait of Hormuz.
    Quite amazing that the biggest arms suppliers to IS are the USA now joined by Russia and China. And it is all free. Quite fascinating.

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  11. Has Pantsyr been used at all in the ground fighting?

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    Replies
    1. It can fire missiles and guns at ground targets right?

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    2. Only guns, but you don't want your most modern and expensive SAM system on the frontline right?

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