After months of regime advances near Aleppo, threatening to cut off their routes into Syria’s largest city, insurgents have hit back with the recapture of territory near the vital highways.
Opposition fighters are celebrating the takeover of al-Breij, to the northeast of Aleppo and are also claiming the al-Manasher area and al-Mayyasat. They say that they killed more than 20 Syrian troops, including a commander, and captured others, as well as an armored vehicle and cannon.
The insurgents also continue to hold the key town of Handarat, on the main highway north of Aleppo, after weeks of regime pressure. Clashes continued on Monday, with the opposition striking back with cannon against Syrian forces.
A map of the Aleppo area, with insurgent areas in green and regime territory in brown (h/t: @archicivilians):
Since the summer, President Assad’s forces had seized territory to the north and east of Aleppo, including the Sheikh Najjar industrial area. Last month, State media proclaimed the imminent capture of Handarat and the final cutoff of insurgent-held east Aleppo, captured by the opposition in July 2012.
However, the insurgents — a coalition of the Islamic Front, Free Syrian Army units, and “independent” brigades — recently reorganized with the formation of the “Sham Front”, fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra. Reinforcements arrived from other areas of Syria, including Idlib Province in the northwest, and the opposition was also assisted by storms that grounded the Syrian Air Force.
If the insurgents consolidate the victories, they will hold the area between Handarat and the Sheikh al-Najjar industrial area, pushing back the prospect of the cut-off of east Aleppo. Regime bombing and shelling will continue, but a renewed ground offensive may be limited by recent insurgent advances in Idlib Province and to the south of Aleppo that are stretching Syrian forces and could hinder their supply lines.