Russian air force is backing the Syrian loyalist push
For two week now there have been reports of a Syrian army buildup in the Aleppo region. These culminated yesterday in a report that no fewer than 11,000 new troops have been concentrated for the oncoming Aleppo offensive.
Syria's prime minister himself announced such a push would begin shortly and reassured loyalists that Russia was onboard.
Today the long-anticipated Battle of Aleppo begun as Syrian army with Russian air support launched an attack on al-Nusra and other non-ceasefire rebel groups aimed to cut off rebel supply lines into the city. Initial push has met with success:
For the first time since 2014, heavy clashes have now broken out inside Aleppo city itself. Earlier today, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) captured al-Mallah farms in the north while simultaneously cutting the rebel supply line to Al-Ramouseh Industrial District in the south.
Furthermore, breaking reports indicate that government troops are storming the western section of the Handarat housing, with skirmishes ongoing near the district’s Palestine Mosque and Zuhair Mohsen School. This attack has been launched from the nearby Quarries.
Now, rebels inside Aleppo city are inches from being completely encircled, thus preventing them from receiving vital supplies and ammunitions. This is due to fire control between al-Mallah farms and the YPG-held district of Sheikh Maqsoud.
As seen on the map rebels' supply lines have been narrowed down albeit loyalist forces will have to take more ground to completely cut them off:
Should pro-government forces succeed in encircling rebel-held district of Aleppo it remains to be seen if they will attempt to promptly eliminate it or settle for besieging it which has been their prefered tactic in the war so far.
Turkish-backed rebels cut in half by ISIS
Meanwhile fighting further up north has seen another dramatic reversal that this war keeps throwing up.
Last week we were reporting that Azaz pocket rebels were "racing" along the Syrian-Turkish border as, backed by Turkish artillery and US A-10s they took over 20 settlements in all of five days.
However, since then ISIS has regroup and struck back. Under Turkish artillery fire it took territory from rebels even faster than it had previously lost it.
In one section ISIS has actually reached the Turkish border thus splitting the expanded Azaz pocket in half.
This is all the more remarkable if you believe as Moon of Alabama does that rebels are propped up by Turkish special forces.
It seems that ISIS understood the rebels' border offensive last week was an opening salvo of a larger Turkish plan to install rebels in the entire ISIS-held northern Syria and decided it need to be nipped in the bud.
We will see if it the forces ISIS has dedicated to this task will make a major attempt to eliminate the Azaz pocket or if a stalemate of some sort will return.