Rebels have attacked again in and near Syria’s largest city Aleppo, putting more pressure on pro-Assad forces. In a sudden assault on Sunday, the rebel bloc Jaish al-Fatah moved inside a cement factory (see map) used as a garrison by the Syrian military and its foreign allies. On Sunday, attacks destroyed the first defense lines on the factory’s outer perimeter. Pro-Assad forces then called in Russian air strikes — some on their own positions, according to local sources — as rebels threatened to break into bunkers. The Russian bombing “saved” the Syrian military and foreign militias, according to the sources. Rebels withdrew, but are expected to be preparing for a second assault.
Last week, rebels achieved a symbolic victory by breaking the month-long pro-Assad siege of Aleppo. The rebel bloc Jaish al-Fatah announced at the time that, having linked units, it would persist with attacks inside and outside the city.
The factory is east of territory seized by rebels in their 2 1/2-week offensive, including one of the regime’s largest artillery bases, an air force college, part of the town of Ramouseh, and a series of villages. It is also close to the southern ring road, cut by the rebels to impede the movement of men and arms by the pro-Assad forces.
In western Aleppo city, rebels signaled a surge in the Zahra district with a large vehicle bomb. Pro-Assad activists and journalists insisted that the bomb was destroyed before it reached the target, but drone video showed a large explosion in a regime position.
Regime forces and rebels have fought for control of Zahra and nearby Layramoun since early 2015. The Syrian military had hoped that, with imposition of its siege last month, it could complete the takeover of the areas.
Aleppo has been divided since July 2012. The Assad regime — supported by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah — had hoped that it could finally suppress the opposition with the imposition of the siege and constant air attacks; however, the surprise rebel offensive at the end of July not only ended those hopes but threatened to cut off pro-Assad forces in western Aleppo city. www.mesop.de