Earlier today, news emerged that the commander-in-chief of the Tiger Forces, Colonel Suheil Al-Hassan, had arrived in Aleppo city to help reverse Islamist gains in western Aleppo. This reknown commander spearheaded an offensive earlier in 2016 which had the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) encircle rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo.
Furthermore, the SAA’s Desert Hawks Brigade arrived to Aleppo city on Saturday. This specialized SAA unit arrived from the eastern Aleppo countryside after it was determined that the Islamic State was unlikely to gather another assault on the Kuweiris Airbase following a series of recent territorial setbacks for ISIS in Aleppo province.
The Desert Hawks Brigade is trained specifically in ambush tactics and desert warfare. Notably, this elite SAA unit led the charge to liberate Palmyra from the Islamic State little more than six months ago.
Despite ongoing clashes in western Aleppo, the Desert Hawks Brigade and Tiger Forces are expected spearhead attacks on rebel-held districts in eastern Aleppo. These SAA units are primarily used as assault troops while other factions of the Syrian Armed Forces, such as the Republican Guard and National Defence Forces (NDF) specialize in defensive warfare.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of Ahrar al-Sham vowed to cut off the SAA’s narrow supply line to Aleppo city through an assault on Khanasir town in the southern countryside of Aleppo. Twice in the past 18 months, jihadist forces have closed the SAA’s only road to the provincial capital of Aleppo only to have government forces reopen it weeks later.
Despite months of frontline calm, the western outskirts of Khanasir did experience skirmishes on Saturday although no advances were achieved on either side.
A map of Aleppo city, updated on October 29, can be found here.