The fog of war lies heavy over Aleppo, with competing claims by both sides that are rarely reliable.
This is not necessarily because anyone is setting out to deceive. Rather it is because in such closely fought fighting as is now taking place in southwestern Aleppo those fighting on the front lines have more important things to do than brief the media.
Nonetheless the information that is dribbling out suggests that over the last few days the Syrian army and its Hezbollah allies have been steadily regaining ground in southwest Aleppo.
It seems that the Syrian military may have succeeded in re-entering the grounds of what is sometimes called “the Aleppo artillery base” and may have managed to encircle the Jihadi rebels there.
“The Aleppo artillery base” is in fact something of a misnomer. Syria’s new agency SANA does not use it. Instead it refers more accurately to “the military academies”, a group of widely scattered buildings on the south western outskirts of Aleppo that were used as military schools. SANA’s reports have never suggested that these buildings form together a single fortified complex in the way that the words “Aleppo artillery base” imply they do.
Nonetheless it was the capture of the “Aleppo artillery base” that led to the claims a short time ago that the rebels had broken the Syrian army’s siege of the rebels in eastern Aleppo and had cut off the government supply lines to the government held areas of Aleppo.
Those claims were never true. The Syrian rebels have never been able to send significant amounts of supplies through the narrow corridor they have punched through the government lines. The corridor is too narrow and too insecure to make that possible.
The government for its part has retained control of all the major roads leading into Aleppo, and has been able to reroute supplies to the city through safer routes. Latest reports suggest that after a brief panic and a spike in prices the supply situation in government-controlled Aleppo has stabilised.
However it remains the case that if the Syrian military is indeed in the process of recapturing what is called the “Aleppo artillery base” then it will be final confirmation that the rebel counter-offensive in southwestern Aleppo has failed. Since it is unlikely that the rebels will be able to mount such a similar effort again, that will seal the fate of the rebels in eastern Aleppo unless the US intervenes militarily to save them, which for the moment looks extremely unlikely. The next few days should make the situation clear.