Reports from Syrian and Iranian news agencies appear to confirm that alongside the Russian air and cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda bases in Idlib and Homs province, the Syrian army has now started a major ground operation in and around Aleppo.
There are also reports of air strikes on the Al-Qaeda controlled eastern districts of Aleppo. The Syrian military has apparently confirmed that Syrian aircraft are involved. Not surprisingly pro-Jihadi news outlets are claiming that the Russians are involved in these strikes as well. However this has been categorically denied by Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.
This operation has been in long preparation, and it is likely that it is intended to result in the final liberation of the eastern district of Aleppo. A report from the Iranian Fars news agency gives an impression of the Syrian army’s determination to bring the battle of Aleppo finally to an end. It reports a Syrian army field commander, presumably in the city, saying the following
“Terrorists’ large-scale offensives, including Abu Omar Saraqib and the Great Epic Operation, have different names but the same result. Terrorists are not able to lift the army’s siege on the militant-held districts of Aleppo. After repelling terrorists’ continued attacks on government forces’ positions in Western Aleppo and extension of the army’s security ring in the Western and Southwestern parts of the city, the army soldiers are now ready to storm militants’ centres in Eastern Aleppo. Expansion of the Syrian army’s rule in the depth of the Western districts of Aleppo has ruined any chance for the terrorists to open their way into the Eastern parts of the city to lift the siege of their comrades.”
However it is important to add that the same field commander is reported as saying that the main area of the Syrian army’s offensive will initially be in the western areas of Aleppo. In other words the initial objective is to push the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi forces even further from Aleppo before the Al-Qaeda controlled eastern districts of the city are stormed.
“….the Syrian army operation in Aleppo is aimed at meeting two objectives: first, blocking the terrorists’ movement through their supply roads to al-Rashedeen neighborhood. This neighborhood is the main supply line of the terrorists from the Southern flank to the Southwest and from there to the regions of al-Mansoureh, al-Bahouth al-Elmiyeh and Khan al-Asal that are the most important strongholds of the terrorists in Western Aleppo. The second objective of the Syrian army operation is to complete control over all roads in the Southwestern parts of Aleppo and restore security to most quarters in the Western part of the city and immune them against the terrorists’ mortar attacks.”
Only once western Aleppo is finally secured against further Jihadi attacks will the Syrian army aim to storm Al-controlled eastern Aleppo.
This explains why Russian bombing and cruise missile strikes are presently targeting Al-Qaeda logistics and infrastructure in Al-Qaeda’s rear. The Russian bombing and cruise missile strikes are intended to weaken Al-Qaeda’s ability to resist the Syrian army’s offensive against the Al-Qaeda led Jihadi forces located outside western Aleppo. They are not yet intended to support a Syrian army operation to storm eastern Aleppo.
That however will soon come. From the way the Syrians and the Russians are now talking, it seems that talk of further ceasefires or humanitarian pauses is at an end.