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Syria regime reportedly mobilizing
for west Aleppo campaign

The upcoming offensive will aim to sever rebel supply lines between the city of Aleppo and its western countryside.

Pro-government forces outside Aleppo. (AFP/George Ourfalian)

BEIRUT – Pro-Syrian regime forces have reportedly begun mobilizing on the outskirts of the de-facto autonomous Kurdish Afrin canton to prepare for an offensive aimed at striking rebel supply routes west of Aleppo.

 

“Regime forces and the militias supporting them continued to mobilize [in] large numbers… on a number of fronts in western Aleppo countryside on Monday in a bid to resume their assault on positions held by the armed opposition,” ARA News reported.

 

The Erbil-based outlet that closely covers northern Syrian field developments said the upcoming offensive will aim to sever rebel supply lines between the city of Aleppo and its western countryside.

 

The anticipated offensive would see the troops move southward from the Afrin canton, from where Kurdish-led troops have already staged a lightning eastward drive that seized a swathe of rebel-held territory above Aleppo.

 

Saleh al-Zain, an armed opposition field commander in northern Aleppo countryside told ARA News that “regime forces and groups of militants from the villages of Nubl and Zahraa are mobilizing large numbers of fighters on the outskirts of the villages of Bashemra, Fafertayn, Birad and Kiymar with the aim of storming western Aleppo countryside and cutting the Ma’aret al-Artiq-Babis road, as well as the Hawr-Yaqed al-Adas road in the direction of Qubtan al-Jabal.”


“[The] regime has begun preparing for its forces by directing fierce artillery strikes at the villages of Qubtan al-Jabal and Al-Sheikh Aqil, as well as the outskirts of the village of Daarat Izza.”

 

Despite the start of a ceasefire Saturday in Syria, regime forces have continued to target the village of Qubtan al-Jabal, which lies near the strategic Highway 62 leading into Aleppo city.

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Sunday that warplanes conducted a number of raids on Qubtan al-Jabal and nearby areas of western Aleppo, days after a strike on the village killed eight people from the same family.

 

A small pro-regime offensive on Qubtan al-Jabal was reportedly foiled on Friday, hours ahead of the ceasefire that has seen a dramatic reduction in fighting across Syria, although both rebels and the regime have cited a number of violations by their foes.

 

The pro-rebel Al-Etihad Press also reported on the significant buildup of pro-regime forces in western Aleppo.

 

Source said that a military columns made up of a number of pickup vehicles equipped with medium and heavy gauge machine guns as well as around 200 fighters had entered the villages of Kiymar, Birad and Fafertayn, which are all controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

 

“[The regime troops] will most probably be based in the aforementioned villages in preparation for the launch of a new assault on western Aleppo countryside from the villages of Babis and Hawr,” the sources added.

 

Pro-regime forces on February 3 successfully relieved the rebel siege on the nearby Shiite villages of Nubl and Zahraa, cutting of rebels in a corridor of territory stretching up to the Turkish border from their cohorts further south in Aleppo city.

 

Following the regime victory, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their Jaysh al-Thuwar allies expanded from the eastern edge of the Afrin canton into the rebel pocket, seizing the Mennagh airbase and Tal Rifaat in mid-February.

 

Turkey reacted furiously to the advances and began shelling YPG and Jaysh al-Thuwar troops, which are now on the outskirts of the strategic rebel-held towns of Marea and Aazaz.

 

Opposition forces, for their part, have accused the Kurds of coordinating with the Syrian regime and Russia to push back rebel lines, while the YPG says it is “liberating” villages from the Nusra Front, despite the Al-Qaeda affiliate not being present in the area.

 

Following popular pressure, nine rebel factions in Aleppo rallied under the command of Ahrar al-Sham's former leader Hashem al-Sheikh and declared the formation of the new Jaysh al-Halab coalition.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Ullin Hope (@UllinHope) translated the Arabic-language source material.

Pro-government forces outside Aleppo. (AFP/George Ourfalian)

[The] regime has begun preparing for its forces by directing fierce artillery strikes at the villages of Qubtan al-Jabal and Al-Sheikh Aqil, as well as the outskirts of the village of Daarat Izza.

  • dutchnational

    Rebels coordinating with Turkey, JAN, IS, getting weapons from Turkey, KSA, being aided by direct artillery fire out of Turkey is no problem and Russia bombing those rebels and afterwards those rebels being attacked by SDF, that is a problem? Double standards?

    February 29, 2016