Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • EU leaders choose Tusk and Mogherini for top jobs, discuss Russia sanctions

    Read more

  • Dozens of UN peacekeepers still held by Syrian jihadists

    Read more

  • Opposition protesters clash with Pakistani police outside PM's house

    Read more

  • Austerity row overshadows French Socialist’s annual rally

    Read more

  • Egypt sentences Brotherhood leader Badie to life

    Read more

  • Ceasfire allows Gaza families to relax on the beach

    Read more

  • S. Africa condemns 'military coup' in Lesotho

    Read more

  • Kerry calls for 'coalition of nations' to battle IS militants

    Read more

  • Ukrainian plane with seven on board crashes in Algeria

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns Russia of more sanctions

    Read more

  • IMF backs Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

Middle east

Syrian rebels forced to rely on homemade weapons

© FRANCE 24

Video by Manolo d'Arthuys

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-09

Hampered by a chronic lack of weapons, Syrian rebel fighters are relying on arms fabricated in makeshift workshops, as a FRANCE 24 team discovers on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.

At a makeshift workshop on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, teenagers are busy sorting through metal scrap while a man, sitting cross-legged in a corner, makes homemade rockets.

“The regime is supported by all the big, rich countries,” says Samir, never once taking his eyes off his delicate task. “All we have is the help of God. Western countries were supposed to send us weapons. Well, here we are. We have to build everything ourselves. Everything here is homemade – 100 percent homemade.”

With the Syrian conflict showing no signs of abating, the asymmetrical use of force and lopsided access to arms by the two sides has seen the rise of dozens of workshops making all sorts of weapons for the rebel fighters.

Although the European Union has lifted its arms embargo and US President Barack Obama has signalled that the US will increase aid to Syria’s rebels, in reality, the deliveries have lagged, largely due to Western fears that any military assistance could wind up in the hands of jihadists.

And so, men like Samir and Yasser, the owner of the workshop, have been hard at work, manufacturing a range of weapons including rockets, grenades, missiles and mortar shells.

‘Be careful with my grenades’

As a group of men pack explosives into a refashioned metal pipe, Yasser closely supervises the process. “That’s a 120-millimetre mortar shell. It’s entirely handmade. [Syrian President] Bashar al Assad’s army uses the same. The difference is, we make our own rather than getting it from Russia or North Korea.”

Another difference is  the risk involved in using and handling these workshop-grade weapons. Accidents are common in Syria’s weapons workshops as workers handle toxic inflammables and some have been known to explode in garages and on the frontlines, killing manufacturers and users.

As a group of rebel fighters handle some rudimentary grenades, Yasser advises caution.

“Be careful with my grenades,” Yasser tells a local commander. “We had a slight problem the other day – about 200 of them exploded unexpectedly.”

His client, an FSA (Free Syrian Army) commander, is clearly rattled. “How did they explode?” he asks.

“They blew up because of the heat,” explains Yasser, before advising the FSA fighter to store the grenades in a refrigerator and take them out just before use.

Nevertheless, Yasser, ever the competent salesman, wants to reassure his client. So the men troop outside the workshop where Yasser launches his grenade – successfully this time – in a corner of the yard.

The occasional accidents have not dampened Yasser’s creative and entrepreneurial skills.

With a smile, he shows the FRANCE 24 team his latest product: a smoke bomb. “This is one for our sniper friends,” he says as fumes engulf the workshop. “When you need to cross a street or a junction, you throw one of these smoke bombs. Then the enemy can’t see you.”

Click here to watch the full report by Manolo d'Arthuys: 'On the frontline with the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo'.

Date created : 2013-10-08

  • SYRIA

    UN begins destroying Syrian chemical weapons

    Read more

  • SYRIA

    UN team wraps up inquiry into Syrian chemical attack

    Read more

  • UNITED NATIONS

    UN adopts resolution on Syria chemical weapons

    Read more

COMMENT(S)