Exactly 5 months ago, on 30 September 2015, the Russian airforce began its bombardment on ISIS fighters and various Islamist rebel groups across Syria. Subsequently, government forces have been able to gain considerable ground in especially the provinces of Lattakia, Daraa and Aleppo. The latter governorate quickly witnessed a change of momentum and upper hand as the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) launched three different offensives in separate directions from the provincial capital itself.
Firstly, government forces launched a surprise offensive towards the thinly defended rebel-held countryside of southern Aleppo. Remarkably, this plan is believed to have been devised by none other than Qasem Soleimani himself. This Iranian Major General frequently visited the Syrian soldiers and their allied Shi’ite paramilitary fighters on the southern Aleppo frontline while overlooking the tactical manuevers made in the region. Eventually, various pro-government Shi’ite militias and the predominately Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army’s 4th Mechanized Division managed to capture the strategic town of Hader and the highpoint of Al-Eis from Jaish al-Fateh militants and quickly fortified the front.
Secondly, as rebel commanders pulled their fighters out of northern Aleppo to reinforce southern Aleppo, this left the northern front highly weakened; an area where two government-held towns had been entirely cut off from land route supplies for years. Therefore, on the 1st of February 2016, the Syrian Arab Army launched another major offensive to reach the aforementioned towns. Within days, government forces breached a rebel-held area formerly believed to be impenetrable due to rebel mines and subsequently broke the siege imposed on their comrades in Nubl and al-Zahraa. From then on, the SAA has captured a dozen neighbouring villages while Kurdish fighters simultaneously attacked Islamist rebels further north and captured Menagh Airbase and the large town of Tall Rifaat.
Thirdly, Tiger Forces (an elite SAA specialized offensive branch) launched an offensive from al-Safirah to break the 3-year-long siege of Kuweiris Airbase in eastern Aleppo. Here, 314 surviving government soldiers had entrenched themselves against hostile ISIS fighters who intended to capture the airport by any means necessary. Nevertheless, the Tiger Forces – strongly aided by the Russian airforce – managed to break the siege and quickly built a large buffer zone around the airbase. Furthermore, Russians are reportedly considering whether or not to utilize this very same airfield due to its vicinity with the ISIS frontline.
For obvious reasons, the next government offensive in Aleppo is unknown to Al-Masdar News. However, with some 50.000 troops stationed to the province, they are believed to focus on three major goals:
1. Reach another government-held enclave in Idlib from southern Aleppo; namely Fuah and Kafraya which are on the outskirts of Idlib city. Currently, some 25 kilometers set these towns apart from government troops in the east.
2. Attack ISIS in eastern Aleppo and capture either al-Bab or Deir Hafer. If the Syrian Army captures the latter city, this would enable an all-important offensive towards the Islamic State capital of ar-Raqqah.
3. Cut of the final rebel supply routes to insurgents inside Aleppo city. If the Syrian Army succeeds in doing so, they will be able to starve rebel fighterss into submission as they did in Homs (Syria’s 3rd largest city) last year.
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