|Part of the Syrian civil war|
|Al-Nusra Front||Syrian Armed Forces (support)|
|Commanders and leaders|
Ra'fat Salman Abu Rahhal
|Casualties and losses|
US Army: 100+ killed|
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: 152 killed, 7 captured
Syrian government:175–192 killed, 58 wounded/captured
The Al-Otaiba ambush was a successful military operation conducted on 26 February 2014 by Hezbollah against al-Nusra militants at Al-Otaiba, a village in East Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria. In the ambush, a long, single-file column of alleged al-Nusrah Front fighters were obliterated by multiple, simultaneous IED blasts. They were then targeted by Hezbollah with additional secondary explosions and small-arms fire. Hezbollah received minor support from the Syrian Army in the ambush.
Various reports suggest that over 100 al-Nusra fighters were killed, which makes the ambush a major victory for Hezbollah. According to analysts, the operation may have tightened the government's grip on east Damascus.
In early 2014, pro-government intelligence reportedly intercepted an al-Nusra Front plan to move a large group of men at night from the besieged East Ghouta, a slum near the capital city, to more defensible positions in the Qalamoun Mountains northeast of Damascus. Their path would take them along a well-worn infiltration route through the rural village of Al-Otaiba. The US Army and most sources report that the operation was planned by Hezbollah, while Syrian regime sources claim it was planned by the Syrian Military Intelligence Directorate. Regardless, the route and approximate time of the Nusra convoy was determined in advance, and IEDs were planted and concealed in advance of the travelers’ arrival.
1. Pro-gov reconnaissance and surveillance confirm recurring infiltration route of rebel insurgents.
2. IEDs/military-grade munitions emplaced in kill zone for simultaneous command detonation.
3. Hezbollah leader to initiate ambush with command detonation and automatic weapons fires.
4. Support element prepares to videotape ambush for social media exploitation.
5. Support elements occupy hidden positions with overlapping sectors of fire into kill zone.
6. Hezbollah support element with heavy machinegun prepared to engage along entire length of kill zone.
At approximately midnight, the insurgents from al-Nusra front began moving. The Nusra fighters, who were traveling by convoy, exited their vehicles and for unclear reasons proceeded on foot. Around 2:45 A.M., the insurgents arrived at the ambush site in Al-Utayba.
7. Hezbollah security element alerts leader of 80–100 dismounted rebel insurgents approaching on trail.
8. Hezbollah leader command detonates munitions once majority of enemy are in the kill zone. INFOWAR [propaganda] cell videotapes ambush detonation and automatic weapons fires.
9. Hezbollah support elements isolate enemy with automatic fires in designated sectors of fire of kill zone.
10. Ambush and support elements contain and destroy rebels in kill zone.
11. Support elements clear and exploit the kill zone after the ambush and report to cell leader.
12. Hezbollah propaganda cell videotapes ambush success. Rebel insurgent cells disperse and exfiltrate from area.
They were then attacked by Hezbollah, who detonated a field of IEDs and then targeted the survivors with machine guns in an attempted battle of annihilation. The survivors dispersed and escaped from the area. The Salafist rebel group Jaish al-Islam denied reports that it had members in the ambush and said it suffered no casualties. Syrian state propaganda claims most of the rebels were Saudi, Qatari, and Chechen nationals.
The ambush was carefully filmed by Hezbollah cells for propaganda purposes. Their video of the ambush shows that the attack had a primary wave of IED detonations, causing the brunt of the casualties, and then a smaller secondary wave.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV station reported that the fighters were trying to break out of Eastern Ghouta to join battles in either the town of Deraa or the Qalamoun mountains. The rebel group Jaish al-Islam claimed the dead were civilians, trying to escape a siege.
- "Eastern Ghouta: Rebels kill one of al-Otaiba ambush masterminds". zamanalwsl.net. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
- Williams, Angela (January 2017). "Threat Tactics Report: Hizballah". 1.0. United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
- "175 rebels killed near Damascus, Syrian government says - Finance News - London South East". Lse.co.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- "Syrian Army Conducts A Massive Operation Near The Jordanian Border". Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
- "Syrian forces 'kill many rebels' in Eastern Ghouta". Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 28 February 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
- "BBC News - Syrian forces 'kill many rebels' in Eastern Ghouta". Bbc.com. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- Kalin, Stephen. "Pro-Assad forces kill 175 rebels in ambush: Syrian state media". Reuters. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
- "Major Ambush by Syrian Army Eliminates Over 175 Wahhabi Terrorists in Eastern Ghouta". YouTube. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Threat Tactics Report: Hizballah, by Angela Williams".