BEIRUT, LEBANON (8:35 P.M.) – The Aleppo-based 30th Division of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), comprised of elite Republican Guard formations, has begun the operation to systematically reduce the ISIS pocket in the Khanasser region of southern Aleppo Governonate. The Khanasser pocket was created just over 24 hours ago after the Tiger Forces imposed full control over the section of highway running from Ethriyah to Rusafa.
Already, a string of settlements within the pocket were rapidly liberated by the SAA today; these have been identified as the villages of Atshanah, Khiribeh, Jib Ali, Hayat, Khanisar, Zabd, Durayhm, Aqyal, Sardah, Hawaz, Qaliaa, Al-Tonyeh, Hamidiyah Gharbiyah and Hamidiyah Sharqiyah. In addition to this, the SyriaTel hill in the area of these villages was also captured by the SAA.
With the closure of the Khanasser pocket, it has now become apparent that the bulk of ISIS forces stationed in southern Aleppo did in fact evacuate whilst the opportunity to do so was open for them. Nonetheless, in the wake of its retreat, the terrorist group heavily-sowed settlements in the Khanasser region with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and those ISIS fighters who have remained behind (a number which possibly reaches into the dozens) have been tasked with carrying out suicide bombings. These measures have been implemented by ISIS in order to slow down, as much as possible, the advance of the SAA and to inflict, also as much as possible, losses on SAA ranks – all at minimum cost to the terrorist group.
According to Al-Masdar News journalist Ibrahim Joudeh, it is possible that the liberation of the entire Khanasser pocket could be achieved by the SAA within the next 48 hours. As of the time of this report, there are still some twenty-six (26) settlements in the Khanasser pocket yet to be cleared by the SAA.