The Syrian military has just issued a statement that all remaining supply routes to the rebel forces in Aleppo have now been cut and that the rebels in eastern Aleppo are now completely surrounded.
The Syrian military has called on the rebels in Aleppo in effect to surrender by offering them a choice between either handing in their weapons and staying in the city – in which case they would presumably be taken prisoner by the Syrian army – or handing in their weapons and leaving the city. Given that the majority of the rebels in Aleppo are fanatical hardline Jihadists associated with Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise – Jabhat Al-Nusra – it is unlikely most of them will agree.
News of the final encirclement of the rebels in Aleppo comes after weeks of heavy attritional warfare in and around the city (see here and here). Though it went completely unreported in the West, Iranian and Syrian news reports show that yesterday – 26th July 2016 – rebel positions on the city’s outskirts suddenly collapsed, with the Syrian military reporting by the end of the day that only a 1 km gap remained in the encircling lines. It seems that today that gap was finally closed.
Though the encirclement of the rebels in Aleppo is being barely reported in the West, indirect confirmation has been provided by reporters sympathetic to the rebels – such as the Guardian’s Martin Chulov – who have recently been reporting that the rebels have now started to realise that they are about to lose the war.
The total turnaround in the situation in Syria is of course the direct result of the intervention of Russia and Iran. Recent weeks have witnessed an escalating air campaign by the Russian air force against Daesh near Palmyra and against the rebels near Aleppo. There are also increasing reports of Iranian troops and of Shia fighters organised by Iran being involved, and there are also significant anti-rebel Kurdish forces deployed around Aleppo as well. However the vast bulk of the forces on the ground that are doing the actual fighting and which have achieved the encirclement of rebel positions in Aleppo belong to the Syrian army.