Siege of Menagh Air Base

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Siege of Menagh Air Base
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Siege of Menagh airbase (2012-13).svg
Map showing the siege
Date2 August 2012 – 6 August 2013
(1 year and 4 days)
LocationMenagh Air Base, Aleppo, Syria
36°31′19″N 037°2′28″E / 36.52194°N 37.04111°E / 36.52194; 37.04111Coordinates: 36°31′19″N 037°2′28″E / 36.52194°N 37.04111°E / 36.52194; 37.04111

Rebel victory[4]

  • Rebels capture the Menagh Air Base

Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army
Syrian Islamic Liberation Front
Al-Nusra Front[1]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[2]

Flag of Syria.svg Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders

Syrian opposition Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi[5]
(Aleppo military council)
Syrian opposition Amar al-Dadikhi (WIA)[6]
(Northern Storm Brigade)
Syrian opposition Abu Marwan[7]
(Northern Storm Brigade)
Abu Omar al-Shishani[8]
(Jaysh al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar and ISIL top commander)
Abu Jandal[9]
(ISIL commander)

Abu Usamah al-Maghrebi[10][11][12]
Brig. Gen. Ali Salim Mahmoud [13]
Col. Naji Abu Shaar [14]
Units involved
  • 17th Reserve Division
  • 12th Armored Brigade
  • Strength
    Several hundred Chechen fighters[8]

    300 (as of January 2013)[6]
    200+ (as of May 2013)[18]

    70[19]–120[20][21][22] (as of August 2013)
    Casualties and losses
    300 killed[14] 94–100 killed[23][24]
    Menagh Air Base is located in Syria
    Menagh Air Base
    Menagh Air Base
    Location within Syria

    The Siege of Menagh Air Base (also spelled Menegh, Mannagh, or Minakh) was an armed confrontation between the Free Syrian Army and aligned Islamist rebel groups on one hand, and the Syrian Armed Forces on the other.[25]


    After months of conflict and failure on the part of the rebels to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's government, some rebels began to switch tactics to targeting government-held military bases. The Menagh Air Base had been a crucial military base used by Syrian military aircraft to bomb rebel forces in the north of the country, particularly in Aleppo city.[citation needed]



    The first major rebel assault against the base came in the weeks following the start of the Battle of Aleppo. Rebel fighters from the Free Syrian Army and affiliated groups launched an attack against the air base on 2 August 2012 using a combination of small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and five tanks they captured during the Battle of Anadan. The base was used by Syrian Air Force helicopters and jet aircraft to bombard rebel positions, and seizing it was seen as vital to the rebels in their advances across northern Syria.[26]

    The initial rebel attack on the base in early August was fought off by government troops entrenched inside the air base's perimeter, though rebel commanders said they would continue the siege and capture the base.[27]

    Heavy fighting broke out on the night of 27 December and continued "all night", as rebels once again assaulted the besieged base. MiG warplanes bombed rebel positions on the outskirt of the base in an effort to alleviate some of the pressure on the defenders.[28]


    By January 2013, the base still held out against the rebels, despite being besieged on all sides. The remaining defenders were receiving supplies of weapons and food, as well as medical evacuations by helicopter; however, these flights became increasingly risky for pilots as rebel forces gained access to heavy weaponry and fired upon government helicopters. At this point the rebels estimated roughly 300 soldiers remained defending the air base. Soldiers who defected from the base reported that food supplies were a major issue and that soldiers were given rations of dry rice and wheat and told to "make what they can from it". Self-inflicted injuries were also reported as soldiers attempted to get away from the fighting.[6]

    On 8 February, the Syrian Air Force bombed parts of the base after rebels stormed it, which forced the rebel fighters to retreat.[29]

    A rebel attack was once again repulsed by government troops on 28 April, though rebels did manage to overrun some parts of the base before being forced to withdraw.[30]

    On 5 May 2013, as the siege of the base continued and government soldiers still refused to surrender, rebels launched their biggest offensive against the base to date, overrunning several Army positions and moving deep inside the base and capturing a tank, although they came under heavy aerial attack by the Syrian air force.[31] Rebels claimed that a group of pilots defected and assassinated the base's commanding officer. The defecting pilots told rebels that around 200 soldiers remained in the base, garrisoned in the headquarters building supported by a handful of tanks. Many soldiers resorted to sleeping under tanks, fearing a rebel assault.[18]

    On 9 May 2013, it was reported that, although they managed to capture parts of the Menagh Air Base, rebel forces were forced to retreat from the base due to heavy air strikes.[32]

    On 28 May 2013, rebel sources reported that the government conducted a successful airborne resupply mission to the Menagh after several thousand FSA and jihadist rebels moved west to launch an attack on Kurdish fighters of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) in the Afrin region, bringing critical military and logistical supplies to the air base.[33]

    On 7 June 2013, rebel forces attacked the air base and fired tank shells at its command building, but were once again repelled.[34] Rebel forces launched another assault on 10 June, and by the next day had managed to secure the control tower after heavy fighting.[35] Government forces responded by shelling rebel held parts of the base.[36] On 17 June, rebels clashed with pro-government fighters from Nubbul and Zahra who were headed for Menagh in an effort to reinforce the soldiers left in the base.[37]

    On 23 June 2013 the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that rebels had detonated a large car bomb in the government-held area of Menagh, which killed 12 soldiers and destroying many buildings within the airport. The explosion was reportedly followed by missile fire on army positions.[38]

    Final assault[edit]

    An ISIL suicide bomber detonates a car bomb during the final assault on Menagh Air Base.
    Map of the final assault on the air base in August 2013

    On 5 August 2013, a final rebel assault, led by Abu Omar al-Shishani, commander of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group,[39] was launched. By this point, 70[19]–120[20][21][22] government soldiers had remained, holding out in a small section of the complex. The attack started when two foreign suicide bombers, one of them a Saudi, drove an armored personnel carrier right up to the airport's command center and blew themselves up, destroying the building and killing or scattering the defenders. Scattered fighting continued, however, by the morning of the next day, rebel forces had full control of the airport. During the final battle, 32 government soldiers and at least 19 rebels were killed.[4][2][20] According to the insurgents on the morning of the final attack, 10 soldiers defected to the rebels and claimed to had attempted but failed to kill the base commander, who was later captured as he attempted to retreat with his men.[22]

    About 70 soldiers, who managed to flee from the base during the battle, surrendered themselves (and two tanks) the next day to the People's Protection Units (YPG) in the town of Afrin, about 15 kilometers west of the airbase.[21][40] It was later reported that the surrendered troops were from the 17th Division and some officers from those surrendered troops were turned over by the YPG to the al-Nusra Front in exchange for Arab and Kurdish YPG prisoners al-Nusra captured from previous battles.[41] Al-Nusra then executed the officers they had received. The YPG later apologized for the incident.[41][42]


    Two and a half years later, in February 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces supported by Russian airstrikes captured Menagh Air Base from the rebels.[43]


    1. ^ CNN, 22 January 2013, Rebels in northern Syria pin hopes on airbase's downfall
    2. ^ a b c Reuters, 5 August 2013, Syrian rebels capture military airport near Turkey
    3. ^ New York Times, 5 August 2013, Rebels Gain Control of Government Air Base in Syria
    4. ^ a b Al Arabiya, 6 August 2013, FSA takes control of Menagh air base near Aleppo
    5. ^ Anne Barnard; Eric Schmitt (8 August 2013). "As Foreign Fighters Flood Syria, Fears of a New Extremist Haven". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
    6. ^ a b c C. J. Chivers, New York Times, 30 January 2013, The Battle for Syria's Minakh Air Base
    7. ^ Richard Hall, The Independent, 24 January 2013, If Syria's rebels can't take The Fortress, how can they take the capital?
    8. ^ a b "Ex-Soviet exiles: One of Daesh's deadliest weapons". Daily Sabah. 4 July 2016. 
    9. ^ Rania Abouzeid (26 September 2013). "Syrian Opposition Groups Stop Pretending". The New Yorker. 
    10. ^
    11. ^
    12. ^
    13. ^ SYRIAN REBELS ENTER NORTHERN AIR BASE Associated Press,5 May 2013
    14. ^ a b Syria civil war: State-of-the-art technology gives President Assad’s army the edge
    15. ^ "Afrin: «Free Army» in the face of the Kurds again". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 28 May 2013. 
    16. ^ Sherine Omar (1 July 2015). "A leader in the Salah al-Din brigade of the "Union Press": We have more than twenty prisoners to the PYD". Al-Etihad Press. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
    17. ^ "Captain Bewar Mustafa: BKK prevents the entry of relief materials to Afrin". Kobani Kurd. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
    18. ^ a b C. J. Chivers, New York Times, 15 May 2013, Battlefield Update: The Fight for Isolated Government Outposts in Northern Syria
    19. ^ a b BBC, 6 August 2013, Syria rebels 'capture key Aleppo airbase'
    20. ^ a b c Wall Street Journal, 6 August 2013, Capture of Syrian Air Base Shows al Qaeda's Increasing Sway
    21. ^ a b c CTV News, 7 August 2013, Syrian troops kill more than 60 rebels in latest blow to opposition fighters
    22. ^ a b c United Press International, 6 August 2013, Syrian rebels seize control of government air base in Aleppo province
    23. ^ Corpses of fallen soldiers from Minnigh Airbase retrieved after 3 years
    24. ^ Regime forces are transporting 100 corpses from Menegh military airport to Damascus
    25. ^ Daily Telegraph, 30 October 2012, Syria: rebels battle for control of regime military bases
    26. ^ The News International, 3 August 2012, Rebels use tanks to attack air base
    27. ^ Daily Telegraph, 2 August 2012, Syrian rebels use captured army tanks to attack Aleppo airforce base
    28. ^ Fox News, 28 December 2012, Government airstrike in northern Syria reportedly kills 14 as rebels attack airbase
    29. ^ Agence France Presse,, 9 February 2013, Syrian warplanes hit rebels inside airbase
    30. ^ CNN, 28 April 2013, Syrian rebels attack military airports across country, opposition says
    31. ^ Huffington Post, 5 May 2013, Syrian Mannagh Air Base Entered By Rebels
    32. ^ CBC News, 9 May 2013, Syrian forces shell northern cities
    33. ^ Sheikho, Youssef (28 May 2013). "Syria: Border Clashes Pit FSA Against Kurds". Al-Akhbar. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
    34. ^ Associated Press, Yahoo News, 7 June 2013, Syrian Troops Capture Central Villages
    35. ^ Al Jazeera, 10 June 2013, Syrian rebels reportedly make fresh advances in their battle for Minnigh airbase in northern Syria
    36. ^ Al Arabiya, 11 June 2013, Syria army launches attack on Aleppo airbase
    37. ^ Reuters, 17 June 2013, Putin, Obama face off over Syria; rebels get Saudi missiles
    38. ^ Bloomberg, 23 June 2013, Syrian Rebels’ Car Bomb Explodes Inside Aleppo Airbase
    39. ^ Wall Street Journal, 6 August 2013, [ Islamists Seize Airbase Near Aleppo]
    40. ^ Firat News Agency, 6 August 2013, YPG: 70 asker esir alındı, 2 tanka el koyuldu Archived 2014-03-31 at the Wayback Machine.
    41. ^ a b Robert Fisk, Syria civil war: State-of-the-art technology gives President Assad’s army the edge The Independent 26 February 2016
    42. ^ Live Leak, 8 August 2014, [1]
    43. ^ Turkey shells northern Syria for second day – monitor Reuters 14 February 2016