5 Sept 2016 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – After weeks of aerial and ground assaults, Russia and the Assad regime have retaken an artillery base southwest of Aleppo, renewing a siege on opposition districts of Syria’s largest city. The Syrian military and foreign allies such as Hezbollah, enabled by some of the most intensive Russian bombing of its 11-month intervention, finally completed the takeover of an air force college on Sunday morning. Then in the afternoon, the remaining units of the rebel bloc Jaish al-Fatah withdrew from the base, one of the regime’s largest in Syria.
The rebels had taken the complex in early August, days after the start of an offensive to counter a Russian-regime siege that had been imposed on opposition areas a month earlier.
Jaish al-Fateh was able to open a 2.5-km (1.5-mile) corridor into Aleppo. While the route was not secured from attacks, it was a notable symbolic victory in the opposition fight over the city, divided since July 2012.
The rebel advance also put pressure on the pro-Assad forces, most of whom now come from Russia’s warplanes, Iranian units, Hezbollah, and Iranian-led foreign militias. The southern ring road was controlled by Jaish al-Fateh, making regime movement of men and supplies more difficult. However, the Russian air power prevented a collapse of the regime position. Pro-Assad forces were able to hold a cement factory, used as a garrison, near the ring road. They then regained some territory, notably the high point at Umm al-Qara and part of the 1070 housing complex, to prevent rebel securing the artillery base from attack.
The news was a much-needed boost for the Assad regime. While its sieges have finally forced the capitulation of some towns in southern Syria, the rebel offensive near Aleppo was complemented last week by a sudden push in neighboring northern Hama Province that claimed towns and villages across a wide front and moved within 10 km (6 miles) of Hama city. www.mesop.de