Breakthrough at Aleppo: why Assad can’t capture strategic town

Saturday, August 6, moderate opposition broke the siege of Aleppo, government forces freed from the South-Western suburbs. The rebels seized the artillery school, expanded the corridor to two miles and restored supplies of food and ammunition.

Aleppo is a key city for control of the Northern territories of the country. Before the war there resided 2.4 million people. In 2016, this figure has dropped to 300 thousand According to researcher, Institute of Oriental studies of Gregory Melamedov, Aleppo allows you to control the outputs to the Turkish border. In addition, the town is well protected. “In Aleppo there are several military warehouses, the airport,” — said the expert.

The forces of the parties

The ring around the territories captured by the rebels, Assad’s troops lined up for about six months. In February, the Syrian government announced the capture of the highway leading from Aleppo to Azaz. According to supporters of the Assad regime, according to this line of opposition fighters received supplies and weapons from Turkey. Keeping the Northern supply routes, the government army went on the offensive. In July it was captured by the highway of Castello, the last link with the opposition territories in the West of the province of Aleppo. Despite this, the rebels advanced to the southern borders of the territories and came out of the cordon, capturing artillery school and several armories.

City in the circle held a Pro-government troops, including Republican guard (about 20 thousand soldiers). Helped to block the opposition Alawite troops (about 1.5 thousand) and the Iranian militia, the exact number unknown. The operation involved up to 4 thousand soldiers of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

According to the opposition, in addition to manpower, government forces actively used in Aleppo military equipment. The city had seen more than 100 tanks and 400 APCS.

On the side of the Syrian free army (SSA) are up to 10 thousand people , including 2.5 thousand fighters of al-Nusra Front (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) and other terrorist groups. None of these groups stands on the side of “Islamic state” (organization banned in Russia).

A decisive offensive

The active phase of the operation began in early July. The troops of Bashar al-Assad went on the offensive in the area of Mellah, capturing the height of the tel-Cabanga. Control of this height allowed the government army to retain under fire highway Castello. Fighting continued in the area of the highway for several days, however, Assad’s troops have managed to maintain the height and close the ring around the Eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo.

During the July fighting, the opposition and terrorist groups have lost at least 300 fighters, the Syrian army — over 100.

In late July, the Syrian government issued an ultimatum to the surrounded enemy. In the transmitted state channel “Surya” document of the command of the troops of the Republic invited the militants to surrender. The next day, July 28, the Russian side and the Syrian authorities announced the opening of humanitarian corridors for civilians and rebels who want to surrender.

Counter attack

The offensive began at the end of last week. One of the key successes of the rebels was the capture of the artillery school.

One of the warehouses located on the territory of the artillery school, was captured by the fighters of the group “Ahrar al‑sham” (banned in Russia), what else on Friday, August 5, said the supporters of this group in social networks.

According to the group of independent investigators armed conflict Conflict Intelligence Team, the opposition and terrorist groups managed to capture more than a dozen pieces of artillery, including two units of reactive systems of volley fire “Grad” and several BMP.

So the Syrian free army compensated by a third already incurred losses, says military expert Viktor murakhovski. According to him, of great value to the rebels have ammo that they got. Earlier in the fighting in Aleppo — air strikes and earth — was destroyed more than a dozen pieces of equipment of the opposition, he said.

A breakthrough in the southern regions was initiated by the attack of the Syrian forces in the North, says Melamed. “They just had nowhere to go,” he says. The expert notes that the Syrian army was not enough to keep the city in a ring. “They are, in fact, was surrounded by,” he explains.

Causes of breakthrough

According to Melamedov in front of Assad’s troops were a few problems during this operation. First, the government army greatly exhausted by constant battles on several fronts, he said.

“To break through the ring was easy, in some places was very thin line of environment, literally cross the street,” agrees an Arabist and senior lecturer at the Higher school of Economics Leonid Isaev.

In addition, according to experts, the allied forces — the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian volunteers — not always directly subject to the General plan of operation. “In recent months, reached almost to the scandal. Lebanese and Iranian troops are guided by their own purposes and don’t always follow the plan,” says Melamed.

He notes that the cease-fire during the month of Ramadan has played into the hands of the opposition. “During Ramadan, the Russian air force and the Syrian army has reduced its activity, allowing the FSA to regroup and launch a new offensive” — says the expert.

Agree with him Deputy Director of the Institute of political and military analysis Alexander Khramchikhin. “The silence regime has allowed the moderate opposition to shift power and change the vector of attack,” he said.

Another problem, according to Isayev, the reassessment of the impact of the Turkish revolution in the interests of Erdogan in Syria. “The Syrian side is very believed that the Turkish army will leave this operation”, — says the expert. However, according to Isayev, it is necessary to Erdogan to solve the Kurdish question and for that he needs allies in the South, in Syria.

.What’s next?

The advance of the troops of the SAA and terrorist groups in the South compromises a large group of Assad’s forces in the center of the city, said Melamed. However, the expert stressed that one should not draw conclusions about the defeat of the Republican forces. “This is a typical positional battles in the big city, the situation is changing every day, and forces are fighting for every kilometer of the streets,” he says.

With the latest offensive near Aleppo, which was supported by the Russian aviation, from government forces was due to a lot of hope, says the head of the St. Petersburg centre of studying of the modern Near East Gumer Isaev. Obviously before the next round of negotiations, each party aims to capture more territory, to dictate terms as overcomers. And before the expected round are particularly fierce battle. “I’ve seen different data. As far as I know, the position of the government forces do not very successful, as the rebels can boast of some apparent success,” — said Isayev.

The fundamental question is the location of Aleppo near the border with Turkey, where there were deliveries of equipment, weapons and manpower to help the insurgents, the expert continues. Question cut-off supply routes from Turkey are fundamentally important for the Assad regime, and prevent it from happening — for the rebels. Full release or capture of Aleppo will be talking about a serious advantage, and other positions during negotiations, which sooner or later will take place, sums up Isaev.