Crazy Video Out Of Syria Shows An Armored Personnel Carrier Brawling With A T-72 Tank
Video emerged this past weekend that shows Turkish-backed Syrian forces in a tracked armored personnel carrier jousting with and then ramming a T-72 tank belonging to forces aligned with Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad. This incident occurred in Syria's northwestern Idlib province and came just a day after an equally unusual road-rage incident between U.S. and Russian forces on the other side of the country.
The video clip of the two armored vehicles, shot from a drone flying above, first emerged on social media on Feb. 22, 2020, but the actual altercation reportedly took place two days earlier. Observers of the Syrian conflict subsequently determined that the two vehicles had squared off in a field to the west of the town of Nerab in Idlib province. The vehicle that anti-regime forces are driving in this particular incident appears to be a Turkish-made ACV-15, a derivative of the U.S. Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV), a 1970s design based on the venerable M113 armored personnel carrier.
That general area around Nerab had been the scene of heavy fighting at the time between Turkish-backed forces and the Syrian after the former launched a major offensive operation with Turkish support. This included both direct support from Turkish artillery units and the delivery of significant quantities of vehicles, including both ACV-15s and M113s, as well as weapons and other equipment from Turkey.
The video of the brawl near Nerab starts by showing the T-72 tank on a stretch of road, apparently entirely by itself, engaging unseen targets. Right from the start, it's important to note that a lone tank has limited situational awareness, especially if its crew is buttoned-up inside with the hatches closed, and can vulnerable to a number of threats. This is not the first time Assad's forces have been seen utilizing armored vehicles in this manner and it can only reflect poor training and limited resources after years of conflict. Open-source investigations have shown that the Syrian Arab Army has lost hundreds of armored vehicles in combat since 2011.
The focus of the video then shifts to the approaching armored personnel carrier. The Turkish-backed forces pass by the T-72 before there is any obvious reaction from the tank's crew, suggesting that they might not have even been aware it was coming until it sped right by them. This further underscores how vulnerable a single tank in the open can be.
After the armored personnel goes by, the tank starts up and the two vehicles find themselves circling each other in something of a curious dance. The tank then moves to get back on the road and retreat, with the anti-regime forces chasing after it.
The armored personnel carrier then rams into the back of the tank and the two vehicles continue pressed up against each other for a short time. The Turkish-backed forces then disengage and go speeding off the road into the field and the video ends.
It's not clear who was controlling the drone that filmed all of this, but the footage bears the logo of Ebaa News Agency, a media outlet linked to the militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS. As such, it is very likely that HTS was videoing this altercation.
It's unclear what the crew of the armored personnel carrier hoped to achieve by charging at the tank in the first place. ACV-15s come in a variety of configurations, but the ones Turkish-backed Syrian groups have received appear to have open turrets with mounted .50 caliber M2 machine guns, which would not pose a significant threat to the T-72. They might have been looking to damage the tank in some way that would disable it.
However, the ramming action, together with the drone videoing above, might also point to this being a failed vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack. A number of terrorist groups have taken to filming suicide VBIED attacks using small drones for propaganda purposes. HTS, which splintered off from Al Qaeda's franchise in Syria in 2017, has released similar videos in the past through Ebaa.
HTS is also known to use armored vehicles as the basis for its VBIEDs. These designs offer the driver greater protection than even up-armored civilian vehicles, increasing the likelihood that they will successfully reach their target. This would not be the first time an HTS VBIED has failed, either.
Whatever the crew of the armored personnel carrier was attempting to do, it does also highlight Turkey's increasing involvement in the fighting in Idlib. Its recent decision to more aggressive and directly support various Syrian groups against Assad, as well as his Russian benefactors, in Idlib has threatened to expand the conflict in dangerous new directions.
The Turkish government has publicly confirmed that a number of its soldiers have already died in artillery and airstrikes, some of which might have been Russian. However, authorities in Ankara have declined to blame Moscow directly for any of these deaths. The fighting in Idlib has already provoked a new humanitarian crisis.
No matter how the conflict evolves continues to evolve in the coming days and weeks, the video of the armored vehicle duel near Nerab is another example of the often bizarre scenes that continue to emerge from the war in Syria, which remains complex and convoluted after nearly a decade of fighting.
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