Yesterday, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), with the support of various Shia paramilitaries groups like Hezbollah, successfully captured the strategic town of Khan Touman and the village of Qarasi in southern Aleppo in a region which has witnessed defiant rebel resistance for years.
This afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army ensued on a blitzkrieg-like offensive and rapidly advanced west of Khan Touman, thereby capturing Kalidiyah village and several hundred meters along the M5-Highway. These areas have been rebel-held since the summer of 2012; thus, insurgents were unable to set up defensive positions in sufficient time to prevent the government offensive and were effectively completely overpowered. Strategically, this renders the M5-Highway, which crosses through Idlib governorate to Aleppo city, utterly useless for Islamist rebels loyal to the Jaish al-Fateh coalition.
Momentarily, the front line has evened out; however, government troops have made steady regional advances in the past two months largely due to Russian Airstrikes and elite Shi’a reinforcements pouring in from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. Nevertheless, this Syrian Army offensive has come at a heavy cost as Jaish al-Fateh rebels have put the US-supplied TOW-missile to effective use against government vehicles in the area causing many to be destroyed.
The SAA is currently attempting to relieve the pressure on Aleppo city while pushing towards the government-enclave and Shi’a towns of Fuah and Kafrhaya near Idlib city. Furthermore, this maneuver does seem to approach Nubl and al-Zahraa from the south. Despite a seemingly illogical offensive route, one cannot rule out the possibility of the Syrian Army launching an all-out attack from this direction towards the predominately Shi’a towns of Nubl and al-Zahraa.