The Syrian opposition forces launched a second offensive on the western suburbs of Aleppo, the “Battle for the Hero-Martyr Abu Omar al-Saraqib” or “The mother of all battles” as described by the opposition as a possible deciding the outcome of the Syrian conflict. The objective of the offensive was to establish a new supply line into eastern side of Aleppo city, after the Syrian government troops and Iran’s foreign legion managed to cut off all opposition supply lines during the opposition’s first offensive [July –August 2016] in the southern suburbs of Aleppo. The Second offensive was successful for the opposition forces in the beginning were they managed to make new gains, but the tide turned after the Syrian government forces backed by Russian airforce managed to recapture all areas lost during this 2 weeks long offensive pushing the opposition forces outside the west side of Aleppo suburbs.
Aleppo operation map (29th October 2016) \ Twitter, FSA news
Jaysh al-Fatah coalition fails again to break the siege
The reason Jaysh al-Fatah coalition decided to attack from the western suburbs of Aleppo because it’s more defensible and harder for Russian warplanes to dominate. It is well fortified by the Assad regime. Their plan was to combat closely to his logistical areas in order to put more pressure on the Syrian government forces. They hoped to end the siege on Aleppo before the arrival of the Russian fleet to the Syrian coast.
The opposition forces were also attacking Syrian government supply convoys that are running through Khanasser – Ithriya highway and at the same time they fired grad rockets to the Nairab military airport in Aleppo, hoping that destroying Assad regime forces and Iran’s foreign legion logistics will eventually make them run out of ammo and other supplies.
Jabhat Fatah al-Sham which is a leading faction in the Jaysh al-Fatah coalition, sent more than 6 SVBIED into Syrian government forces and Iran’s foreign legion’s positions in New Aleppo district and Military Academy it did do damage but they didn’t manage to make a breakthrough into Syrian government forces fortifications.
Nourdine Zeki Shock troops preparation \ Twitter, Nourdine Zenki
Jaysh al-Fatah with its best of manpower and resources couldn’t break the siege on Aleppo due to its solid fortifications which Assad regime fortified it since 2012 and the significant role of the Russian air power. Jaysh al-Fatah forces are not expert on urban warfare since it built its experience of fighting in small towns, villages and open fields not in large fortified cities like Aleppo. FSA’s Fatah Halab coalition does have this urban warfare experience but their only problem is that they are running out of ammo and lack of manpower. If Jaysh al-Fatah don’t succeed in ending the siege anytime soon, Fatah Halab coalition should prepare itself to live under siege for a sometime just like the other opposition groups in Eastern Ghouta at the moment.
Jaysh al-Mujahideen troops preparation \ Twitter, Fatah Halab
Syrian activist and reporter Mazen Aloush told Arabi21, “I confirm that the revolutionaries are used to hit-and-run tactics, this is not the first time that the revolutionaries lose these areas. Their morale is decreasing a bit but when we think about our besieged people our determination refreshes in them [to break the siege] and this is our hope for them.”
He also added, “The reason the revolutionaries advancement was stopped is due to heavy bombardment from Russian warplanes, in the beginning of the operation when Russian warplanes didn’t participate effectively the Assad regime lost hundreds of it’s troops. The main reason that forced the revolutionaries to withdraw from 1070 Apartment block is because they lost Mu’tah hilltop which oversees the only supply line in the area. The battles in southern suburbs of Aleppo, is the battle of hills, if you control the hills, you are in control of everything surrounding it. ”
Assad regime’s new military strategy
Assad regime’s strategy which changed after the Russian intervention in Syria a year ago, their military strategy does no longer focus on re-capturing territories and towns from militant opposition groups but to isolate the opposition held territories into separate pockets far from each other like what happened in previous months in northern suburbs of Aleppo.
Isolating territories and cutting off supply lines allowed the Assad regime to deal with each territory separately at a time. Therefore, we find that Russia always declares a ceasefire in a certain territory but it excludes other territories from it, but in the past, the Syrian government forces and its allies from Iran’s foreign legion used to be dispersed on several fronts against the opposition forces using the previous military strategy trying to restore all new gains then announce ceasefire to re-organize their forces again.
FSA’s Fatah Halab firing grad rockets \ Twitter, Fatah Halab
This new military strategy allowed the Assad regime to isolate certain territories and calm it with a ceasefire, which allowed Syrian Armed forces, Iran’s foreign legion and Russian airforce to concentrate their attack fully on one territory like they did in western and southern suburbs of Aleppo. Assad regime in 2014 was suffering in many fronts across the country because they had to fight in many fronts at the same time across the country, but now President Assad Bashar has moved most of his forces to Latakia and Aleppo to crush the opposition forces there, while in Damascus suburbs and Dara’a his forces are not in combat there because FSA’s Southern front stopped its military operations against his forces by the order from the MOC operation room and the opposition forces in Damascus are having an infighting conflict.
Russian airforce took advantage of this new strategy and started to bomb effectively [around 100 airstrikes per day] on a certain territory causing high damage to opposition forces as well as the civilians like in Aleppo, which then eventually allows the Syrian government troops to move in and capture it just like what happened when they captured Castillo road which was the only open supply line to Eastern Aleppo. Only if the opposition groups in eastern Ghouta and Dara’a opened a new offensive against the Assad regime and its allies, this strategy might help reduce the pressure on Eastern Aleppo. The Russian warplanes would defiantly be distracted and wouldn’t have concentrated their attacks heavily on one territory at a time.