MESOP : TODAYS SITUATION IN- & AROUND ALEPPO – Rebel Gains in Offensive to Break Siege of Aleppo

1 August 2016 – Syria’s rebels have taken territory in a sudden, widespread offensive to break the regime siege of Aleppo city.

Defying the Russian airstrikes that have been essential to pro-Assad forces, the rebels launched ground operations on Sunday across a 20-km (12.5-mile) front, with attacks both to the north of Aleppo — where the Syrian military and its allies have cut the last route into opposition-held areas of Syria’s largest city — and to the south.

The most significant gains were to the southwest including the capture of two villages, a school where served as a staging area for Iranian and Hezbollah fighters as well as the Syrian military, and a large housing complex.Rebels are attacking a heavily-fortified artillery base and the area of Hamdaniyah. Capture of those positions would break the siege which was imposed three weeks ago with the pro-Assad advances near the al-Castello Road to the north of Aleppo.

To hinder Russian-regime airstrikes, opposition supporters burned tires throughout their districts, covering Aleppo in thick black smoke. The warplanes continued to operate, attacking a number of positions in and near the city.

The Syrian military confirmed the rebel offensive on State media but denied that they lost the al-Hikmah school — a claim undermined by the attacks of its air force on the complex — and insisted that they pushed back attacks on the artillery base. The pro-regime Al-Masdar News asserted, “Russian Air Force Emerges in Southern Aleppo to Help Drive Back Jihadists”, following the rebel capture of the 1070 al-Hamadaniyah housing complex.

A military source in Aleppo City told Al-Masdar News that the Russian Air Force joined the battle for southern Aleppo after the jihadist rebels reached the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) front-lines inside the 1070 Housing Project tonight.The source added that the Russian Air Force has bombarded several sites under jihadist control, including the Al-‘Amariyah, Hikmah School, Al-Ramouseh, and Sheikh Sa’eed.

Much of Russia’s English-language State media, including RT, are silent about the offensive, but Sputnik tries to counter with the declaration — distorting both the wide range of rebel factions in the assaults and their success — “Syrian Forces Repel al-Nusra in a Major Offensive Marred by Suicide Attacks“. The outlet showed a video from last week’s pro-Assad advance in western Aleppo city and clumsily tried to claim it was from Sunday’s “defeat” of the rebels.