Over the past 36 hours, ISIS has captured about a dozen villages that run along the government supply line to Aleppo city. This morning, fighters loyal to the Islamic State remarkably managed to capture the strategic village of Khanasser that has otherwise been government-held since 2013. Reportedly, very few Syrian Arab Army soldiers were stationed at the village and as such, government troops quickly found themselves overwhelmed and unable to offer any significant resistance.
According to an al-Masdar source, ISIS has killed 21 government soldiers thus far in and around Khannaser village while 27 soldiers have been wounded during ongoing clashes. These casualties have mainly been suffered by the pro-government Quds Brigade, the National Defence Forces (NDF) and the Syrian Republican Guard. Meanwhile, at least a dozen ISIS fighters have been killed by government forces while the exact deathtoll is unknown for now.
This blitz offensive by the Islamic State in southern Aleppo comes less than three days after the Syrian Arab Army captured a large chunk of territory in eastern Aleppo near the strategic Kuweiris Airbase. Reportedly, up to 1000 ISIS fighters were hastily pulled out of eastern Aleppo during the past week as to launch the current ISIS offensive in southern Aleppo.
For years, ISIS has harassed and raided the narrow and extremely vulnerable government-held road that leads from Hama to Aleppo city. For instance, just 4 months ago, ISIS temporarily cut the Aleppo supply line near Ithriya village and successfully blocked government supplies from reaching Aleppo for weeks which subsequently caused a surge in food prices and panic amongst civilians inside Aleppo city.
However, as to prevent further gains by ISIS forces, the Syrian Government has redeployed the Tiger Forces – including prominent Colonel Suheil Al-Hassan – from eastern Aleppo to southeastern Aleppo in an attempt to combat advancing ISIS fighters. This could prove significant as the Tiger Forces represents an elite branch of the Syrian Arab Army that specializes in carrying out offensives – thus, their redeployment hints at a likely counteroffensive by government troops in the days to come.