It has been over a week since Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba (Iraqi paramilitary unit) captured the strategic town of Khan Touman and its neighboring village (Al-Khalidiyah); however, contrary to rebel reports, this brief hiatus from the southern Aleppo offensive has not been a result of fatigue or their death toll.
Instead, Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba have been preparing for Phase 3 of their southern Aleppo offensive, which will require them to advance south along the imperative Aleppo-Damascus Highway and enter the Idlib Governorate’s northeastern countryside.
Phase 3 of the southern Aleppo offensive will also be one of the most violent battles to come in northern Syria, as several thousand Islamist rebels from Jabhat Al-Nusra (Syrian Al-Qaeda group), Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham, Liwaa Suqour Al-Sham, and Jaysh Al-Islam await their massive assault along the Aleppo-Damascus Highway.
However, the Islamist rebels of Jabhat Al-Nusra and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham currently have their hands full at the town Al-Rashiddeen, as several hundred soldiers from the Syrian Arab Army’s 43rd and 154th Brigades of the 4th Mechanized Division are storming their defensive positions in order to push west towards the town of Khan Al-‘Assal.
With the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Division pushing north towards Aleppo City, Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujaba are preparing to storm Al-Zorba and Al-Barqoum; if captured, they will be within 20km of the rebel stronghold of Saraqib, which sits 10km east of Idlib City and 20km north of Ma’arat Al-Nu’man.
It is safe to say that 2016 is going to be a very important year for all parties involved in this war.