In a matter of 12 hours, the Al-Qaeda linked “Al-Nusra Front” (Jabhat Al-Nusra) was able to recapture the village of Hardatineen after almost 300 fighters from the National Defense Forces (NDF) withdrew east to Bashkawi.
The capture of Hardatineen by the Al-Nusra Front creates a larger buffer for their militants besieging the predominately Shi’i villages of Al-Zahra and Nubl, while also inching them closer to their cutoff supply route in Bashkawi.
Despite claims that the Al-Nusra Front captured Mazra’a Al-Malaah, the Al-Mayadeen field reporter Khaled Iskef reports that only 2 out of 48 of the farms are under the militants control; furthermore, some 2 hours after this confirmation, the NDF captured Mazra’a Al-Wasita in Al-Malaah.
Fierce clashes continue at Deir Zeitoun, where the Al-Nusra Front is attempting to breach the NDF’s frontline defenses; however, they have been unsuccessful thus far, as they were repelled before nightfall.
The NDF and their allies have been fighting this offensive without the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) due to the volatile weather conditions that have forced the latter to avoid airstrikes in northern Aleppo; this has benefitted the Al-Nusra because they are able to maneuver in the open field without caution of an airstrike.