The Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division and their allies have successfully lifted the 3 year long siege on the predominately Shi’i towns of Al-Zahra’a and Nubl; however, the real battle for northern Aleppo has just started, as the Islamist rebels attempt to forestall the government forces from advancing along the Hariteen Highway that stretches to the Turkish city of Gaziantep.
While the news in northern Aleppo seems promising for the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies, they are still involved in a violent battle with the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group), Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, and Jabhat Al-Shamiyah at both Bayyanoun and Rityan.
Should the Islamist rebels hold on and secure the village of Rityan, they will be able to launch a counter-assault to cut the road between Al-Zahra and Mu’arasat Al-Khan, leaving the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies trapped once again.
The reality is that the Syrian Armed Forces and their allies have a thin supply line to Al-Zahra’a – they can be attacked from the north and south flanks by the Islamist rebels, which could end up being a disaster if Hezbollah and the Iraqi paramilitary units become trapped.
The pro-government forces took a risk to transfer several units from Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division, Hezbollah, and the Iraqi paramilitary units to northern Aleppo; if they become trapped at this front, the Islamist rebels could ultimately recover large swathes of land in the south.