During the late evening and early night hours, combined pro-government forces stormed and captured the strategic town of al-Eis and its adjacent hill in southern Aleppo after a costly battle which preliminary reports indicate brought heavy casualties to both sides.
Al-Eis was captured by Islamist rebels 3 days ago during a surprise offensive which some considered a de facto breach of the Syrian ceasefire. However, rebels inside the city and at its nearby hill top have experience hourly air raids and 3 separate (somewhat failed) government assaults over the past 2 days by pro-government forces.
According to an Al-Masdar source, the night offensive was primarily lead by the newly deployed Iranian 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade. However, these troops were aided by the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) 154th Brigade of the 4th Mechanized Division, the National Defence Forces (NDF), the al-Ba’ath Battalion, Hezbollah (Lebanese paramilitary) and Harakat Al-Nujaba (Iraqi paramilitary).
Thus, all rebel gains have now been reversed in southern Aleppo. Furthermore, exclusive al-Masdar News intel suggests that pro-government troops will strike further west in an attempt to capture the neighbouring villages of Banes & Zerbah and the ICARDA area.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, which is led by a Shiite government, tends to favor Shiite movements in the region; most notably Hezbollah, the Houthis and some Iraqi paramilitaries. While Tehran arguably has little to no interest in the predominately Sunni governorates of Aleppo and Idlib, the latter province does hold a tiny government-held enclave just north of the provincial capital; namely the predominately Shiite towns of Fuah and Kafraya.
The aforementioned situation seems to explain the large presence of foreign Shiite volunteer fighters in southern Aleppo as these militants wish to “free their comrades” at Fuah and Kafraya. However, the SAA’s 4th Mechanized Division is mostly made up of Sunni soldiers.
Over the months to come, combined government forces will most likely push west of al-Eis, cut the rebel supply route along the nearby M-5 Highway en route to Aleppo city and enter the eastern parts of Idlib’s governorate.
Once the SAA enters Idlib and eventually captures the province’s capital, Jaish al-Fateh (strongest rebel force in Syria) will likely fall apart as Idlib represents the rebel coalition’s de facto capital. Meanwhile, Syrian marines and the Desert Hawks are also attempting to enter Idlib from its western fringes, thus squeezing the province from both flanks.