Syrian Rebels Brought a Homemade Cannon to the Battlefield
It appears to fire cannonballs
by ROBERT BECKHUSEN
A video released by the Al Rahman Legion, a Syrian rebel group based in eastern Damascus, shows a very unusual weapon — a bespoke, truck-mounted cannon that wouldn’t be out of place on a battlefield centuries ago.
Somewhere within the Al Rahman Legion, a weaponsmith has applied old-time design principles and a bit of physics to bolster the group’s firepower. This is also the third homemade cannon depicted on video released by the group, as two others appeared in September 2015 and February 2016.
One of those was a muzzle-loaded cannon that appeared to launch an explosive projectile, possibly a propane tank. The cannon in the group’s most recent video, however, doesn’t appear to launch an explosive shell.
It looks … like a cannonball. Antiquated at it is, the projectile slams into a concrete building and creates a terrific debris cloud. It’s another brutal weapon in Syria’s war that is approaching nearly six years and more than 400,000 dead.
The secondary shrapnel from the impact of the projectile would be enough to maim or kill. The cannon also has a recoil-dampening system mounted to the rear of the cab, but the force of the blast is still enough to violently rock the cab compartment forward.
The Al Rahman Legion, an Islamist group with around 12,800 fighters, is “one of the oldest standing opposition factions in Damascus and maintains high levels of local legitimacy and support,” according to a March 2016 report from the Institute for the Study of War.
“It grew considerably stronger in early 2016 following a merger with Ajnad Al Sham in Eastern Ghouta” — a Damascus suburb that has been devastated in years of fighting.
Curiously, the Al Rahman Legion obtained at least one U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missile launcher, possibly indicating support from the Jordan-based Military Operations Command — or MOC — staffed by Western and Arab officials.
While support from the MOC to the Al Rahman Legion is unconfirmed, the MOC has supplied weapons and funding to anti-Assad rebel groups in southern Syria. The Al Rahman Legion has also fought the Islamic State in Damascus’ suburbs.
But the southern opposition is divided, increasingly so since Russia’s intervention in the war, and Jordan — which coordinates with Russia — moving to impose red lines on its Syrian proxies, according to Youssef Sadaki writing for The Atlantic Council.
“Throughout last year, the Al Rahman Legion worked to solidify the front near Damascus, orient itself inwards, and control any movement in areas it has military control over,” Sadaki wrote.
Part of that strategy apparently includes cannonballs.