Since May 2019, a series of Syrian loyalist offensives backed by the Russian air force has gradually encroached upon the country’s northwestern Idlib Province, home to the last major pocket of opposition-held territory. As the chief rebel group in control of Idlib, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has employed dozens of suicide car bombs as part of its continued defense of the area. Formally known as suicide vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs), these weapons have been a cornerstone of the group’s — and by extension, the entire opposition’s — military strategy since early stages of the war, when rebel forces began capturing and holding territory.
In an attempt to further understand this strategy and how it has evolved over time, this case study seeks to compare and contrast HTS’s past and current use of SVBIEDs, with a heavy focus on the latter. It will also examine HTS’s evolving SVBIED design, paying particular attention to technical innovations such as environment-specific paint schemes, drone support teams, tablets with target coordinates, and live camera feeds, as well as upgraded main charges.