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Battle For Tabqa Air base
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Date10–28 August 2014
LocationTabqa, Ar-Raqqah Governorate, Syria
Result

Decisive Islamic State victory

  • Tabqa Air Base captured by Islamic State
  • Most of military equipment transported away
Belligerents
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Abu Omar al-Shishani
Unknown
Units involved
Unknown Army Airmobile Forces
124th Republican Guard Brigade
12th Attack Squadron
24th Helicopter Brigade
Strength
800~ 1,000~
Casualties and losses
346 killed 310–400 killed (250 executed)
10-20 captured
One Mig-21 shot down


The battle of Tabqa Airbase refers to a series of clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Syrian Arab Army during August 2014. The Islamic State released photographs that document its takeover of the Syrian Air Force's base in Tabqa in Raqqah province. During the Syrian Civil War, Tabqa was the last bastion for Syrian military forces in the Raqqah province, which at the end of the battle came fully under the control of the Islamic State.

The Battle

Around 10 August 2014, ISIS started to continuously attack Tabqa air base.[1]

On 17 August, the Syrian Air Force launched 26 airstrikes on Ar-Raqqah city and around al-Tabqa, killing at least 31 ISIS fighters and wounding dozens. At least 8 civilians were also killed and 10 wounded.[2] At the same time, the Army also launched an equal number of airstrikes in Deir Ez-zor against ISIS positions, bringing the total number of airstrikes to 40.[3] The following day, the Syrian Air Force launched another 20 airstrikes against ISIS positions, one of which destroyed the Raqqa city water plant, cutting off water supply to the city.[4][5] According to Kuwaiti reporter Elijah J. Magnier, the Syrian Air Force used guided missiles following U.S. intel on ISIS gatherings.[6] According to an anonymous source, the U.S. and an unidentified Western country provided the Syrian military with lists of ISIS targets acquired through drone intelligence.[7]

Meanwhile, the Army sent reinforcements to Tabqa air base and strengthened its fortifications inside the base. It also supplied its garrison with large quantities of ammunition and food.[8]

On the night of 19 August, the heaviest fighting yet occurred at Tabqa air base which involved medium and heavy weaponry as well as 15 government air raids around Tabqa.[1] The ISIS had captured a string of nearby villages in the days before the attack, tightening its siege on the base.[9] The assault started with a double suicide bombing near the entrance to the base,[10] followed by a large-scale ground assault[8] that consisted of 200 fighters, half of which were foreigners.[10] The next morning, fighting subsided after the first assault wave failed to breach the base, but a second wave was launched in the afternoon.[8] ISIS fighters encountered a mine field, heavy shelling and air strikes throughout the assaults.[11] The mines were reportedly planted as part of an ambush set up by Syrian Army Special Forces based on previous observation of ISIS troop movements in the area.[12] The fighting for the base continued until the morning of 22 August, as ISIS managed to capture the al-Tayyara checkpoint near the air base,[13] but failed to break into the base itself.[14] The base was reinforced with additional troops by plane over night while there were still clashes.[11]

The SOHR reported that no more than 70 ISIS fighters were killed in the previous two days, since the attack on the base started, and denied other reported death tolls.[15] According to the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, over 150 ISIS fighters were killed in the ambush near the base,[14] while the Al Masdar news site reported more than 200 ISIS fighters being killed in the previous two days, including the ISIS field commander Umar Abdel-Rahman, a Tunisian.[16] According to Al Masdar, 14 soldiers were killed and 29 others wounded between 18 and 22 August.[17]

On the evening of 22 August, ISIS launched a third attempt to breach the base, after militant reinforcements arrived, starting with a suicide bombing against the airport gate.[18] The attack was repelled, while air strikes also hit ISIS positions in the nearby city of Tabqa.[19] According to Al-Masdar, a Syrian Army brigade later captured the M-42 highway leading to the city of Salamiyah in Hama Governorate and ended the ISIS siege on the Tabqa air base[20]

On 24 August, ISIS fighters breached Tabqa and took control over large parts of the air base.[21] This attack occurred when the Army was already retreating from the base to the Ithriya area, leaving a small garrison behind. The base was eventually captured that day.[21][22] According to Elijah J. Magnier, ISIS destroyed a MiG-21 fighter jet, while 15 other MiG-21's and all helicopters were evacuated from the base.[23] The SOHR also confirmed all military aircraft was evacuated from the base during the retreat,[24] while according to Charles Lister (Brookings Doha Center) ISIS captured a number of MiG-21B's, SA-16 MANPADS and Atoll missiles missiles in the base, but noted that it was unclear whether the MiG-21B's were at all operational.[25]

In the final assault, 170 soldiers were killed, while since the start of the battle 346 ISIS fighters and 195 soldiers had been killed.[26] The number of dead soldiers was later updated to 200.[27] Another 150 soldiers were reportedly captured,[28][29] while 700 soldiers managed to retreat.[27]

The next day, jet fighters launched seven air strikes on the surroundings of the air base. According to the SOHR, ISIS captured the al-Ajrawi farm nearby. It also reported that the ISIS prevented vehicles entering and leaving Ar-Raqqah province in fear of Syrian soldiers being transported out of the province.[30] On 27 August, ISIS captured more than 20 soldiers in the farmlands of Tabqa,[31] while 27 soldiers and 8 ISIS fighters were killed in fighting at the Athraya checkpoint in eastern Hama countryside. 60 soldiers who were hiding near the Athraya area managed to reach Salamiyah.[32]

On 28 August, Syrian fighter jets launched a precise attack on an IS HQ in the city of Mohasan, during a meeting between military leaders and sharia judges. The attack resulted in the death of most leaders inside (numbering six), while others were wounded.[27][33] Another airstrike occurred the same day against an IS camp near Baath Dam, killing and wounding dozens of insurgents.[34] According to SOHR, ISIS executed 160 Syrian soldiers between 27 and 28 August.[27]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Syrian troops defending last stronghold in Raqa province
  2. Syrian jets hammer Islamic State stronghold
  3. Elijah J Magnier: 17-08-2014
  4. Elijah J Magnier: 18-08-2014
  5. Syrian forces hit Islamic State in Raqqa, destroy water plant
  6. Elijah J Magnier: 19-08-2014
  7. "US gives Syria intelligence on jihadists: sources". The Daily Star. 26 August 2014. http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2014/Aug-26/268553-us-gives-syria-intelligence-on-jihadists-sources.ashx#axzz3B7bH1Yle. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 IS attacks Syrian army's last outpost in Raqqa
  9. Islamic State Militants Attack Major Air Base In Eastern Syria
  10. 10.0 10.1 "IS continues attacks on Tabaqa airport in Raqqa". http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2014/08/islamic-state-other-attack-tabaqa-airport-fail.html. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 At least 30 ISIS fighters killed and wounded at Tabqa air base
  12. SYRIAN ARMY AMBUSH AT TABQA KILLS HUNDREDS OF ISIS TERRORISTS!
  13. At least 11 ISIS fighters killed in clashes with the regime
  14. 14.0 14.1 REPORTS: SYRIA TROOPS KILL SCORES OF JIHADIS
  15. اكاذيب للنظام حول مصرع150مقاتلا من تنظيم الدولة الاسلامية
  16. 200+ Islamic State Fighters Killed at Tabqa Airbase
  17. Syrian Republican Guards Newly Formed 124th Arrives at Tabqa Airbase
  18. Third ISIL Attempt to Seize Tabaqa Airport Fails
  19. Jihadists killed in new push to take Syria air base
  20. "Breaking News from Tabqa Airbase: Syrian Army No Longer Encircled". http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-news-tabqa-airbase-syrian-army-longer-encircled/. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Islamic State takes over parts of Syrian air base - monitor
  22. After Tabaqa airport, what is IS' next target?
  23. Elijah J Magnier:24-08-2014
  24. Fall class airport: all tenderness outside Syrian sovereignty!
  25. Charles Lister: 25-08-2014
  26. More than 500 dead in battle for Syria’s Tabqa airport: NGO
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 IS executes "more than 160" Syria troops in new atrocity
  28. More than 320 people dead and missing from the regime's forces at the Battle of class airport
  29. ISIS seizes last Syrian regime base in Raqqa province
  30. al-Raqqa province: warplanes went in...
  31. ISIS captured more than 20 regime soldiers in Raqqah
  32. Hama Province
  33. طائرات النظام تدمر مقر قيادة لتنظيم الدولة الاسلامية في الموحسن
  34. "Сирийские самолеты атаковали базу исламистов у плотины на Ефрате" (in Russian). Vesti.ru. 28 August 2014. http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1926171&tid=95994. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 

Coordinates: 35°50′12″N 38°32′53″E / 35.8367°N 38.5481°E / 35.8367; 38.5481

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