by Leith Fadel, Al-Masdar News
As the Anti-ISIS Coalition continues to bombard east Aleppo, the battle between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Islamic Front (Jabhat Al-Islamiyya) has started to heat up. The SAA’s offensive dubbed “Operation Canopus Star” began in December of 2013; this attack followed the strategic capture of the As-Safira District, which opened a new SAA supply route from Khanesser Road. The Khanesser Road supply route has proved to be one the most imperative victories for the SAA in the Aleppo Governorate, as the consistent flow of supplies have replenished the once scarce resources for the embattled soldiers.
Little by little, the SAA has taken control of the surrounding districts in Aleppo City with help from the Syrian Air Force, who carries multiple air raids each day on Islamic Front positions all around the western part of the province. The brief rebel offensive that targeted the Al-Zahra Quarter in west Aleppo was quickly repelled by the SAA and National Defense Forces (NDF), despite the infiltration by the former into the Air Force Intelligence neighborhood.
With the capture of the Sheikh Najjar (Industrial Zone) and Handarat Districts, the SAA has launched a new wave of attacks that seek to envelop the Islamic Front and cutoff their last supply route into the city. The encirclement can be seen in the map above, which depicts the SAA’s current attacks on Bustan Al-Pasha, Khalidiyyeh, and the farms of Mazra’a Halabi in the north; while in the south, the SAA is on the offensive at Al-Amariyya and Bustan Al-Qaseer. The Islamic Front has fought hard to hold their positions in the Handarat District’s vicinity; however, the absence of reinforcements and supplies has left many rebels demoralized and hopeless in the area.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) have entered into an agreement with the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo that will allow the latter’s militias to utilize YPG-held areas to transport supplies – as long as Islamic Front forces and their hardline allies are not involved. The YPG-held Sheikh Maqsoud District could provide the rebel forces a much needed boost inside the city of Aleppo to forestall the SAA’s advance and possibly a counter offensive; this could be their last hope in Aleppo.