PHOTO: The Syrian military in Aleppo Province last week (George Ourfalian/AFP)



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UPDATE 1830 GMT: Fears are growing of a humanitarian crisis in regime-held parts of Aleppo city because of the Islamic State’s cut-off of the Syrian military’s main route, the Khanasir-to-Aleppo road.

A journalist for pro-regime al-Akhbar reports that prices of fruit and vegetables soared before supplies ran out within two days. The cost of fuel has tripled.

Al-Akhbar says fuel depots hold enough benzene and diesel for 15 days, but supply of fuel to private generators has already stopped.

A Red Crescent worker says there is only a 7-day stockpile of flour and confirms the depletion of fruit and vegetables. The situation is so serious that the Red Crescent is negotiating with the Free Syrian Army to bypass the Islamic State’s blockade and bring supplies into Aleppo, including regime-held sections.

About 700,000 to 1 million people live in the regime-controlled districts of the city.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Islamic State advanced farther in its counter-offensive against the Syrian military near Aleppo city on Tuesday, threatening the key base at as-Safira.

ISIS captured nearby villages and invaded the northern part of the base, according to regime supporters. The pro-Assad accounts claim that the attack was repelled, but the militants are still on the outskirts of the complex.

Safira is the most important regime position south of Aleppo, on the main supply route to the city along the Khanasir road. It has a large regime garrison, accompanied by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps units and Iraqi militia. The base is also known for its factory producing barrel bombs which have killed thousands of civilians. In October 2014, rebels launched a brief, failed assault.

The Syrian military — supported by Russian airstrikes and Hezbollah, Iranian, and Iraqi units — launched attacks against ISIS two weeks ago alongside its five other offensives against rebels in Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Latakia Provinces.

However, as the regime move east of Aleppo slowed in its advance to relieve the siege on the Kweires airbase, ISIS counter-attacked. Last week it cut the Khanasir-to-Aleppo road, capturing about 15 km (10 miles).

Rebel Counter-Offensive in Hama Province Retakes Village of Sukayk

The rebel counter-offensive in northern Hama Province has regained the village of Sukayk from the Syrian military.

Pro-regime outlets admitted the defeat on Thursday.

Sukayk was one of the few villages claimed in the regime’s offensive — the first of six fronts launched with Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah support this month — in a 20-km (13-mile) salient bordering rebel-held Idlib Province. With its loss, the village of Atshan is the only one that is still occupied by the Syrian Army.

Footage of rebels near Sukayk:

Video: Rebel Anti-Tank Missile Hits Group of Regime Soldiers in Southern Aleppo Province

A rebel-fired anti-tank missile hits a group of regime soldiers, apparently listening to an officer, in southern Aleppo Province:

Kurds Reject US Hope of Offensive on Islamic State’s Raqqa

Despite receiving US ammunition, the Kurdish militia YPG has rejected the Obama Administration’s hopes of an offensive on the Islamic State’s center of Raqqa in northern Syria.

“We in the YPG have a strategic goal, to link [the Kurdish cantons of] Afrin with Kobani,” said Polat Can, a senior militia official, referring to two Kurdish enclaves in Rojava that are separated by 60 miles of territory controlled by the Islamic State. “We will do everything we can to achieve it.”

Other areas, such as Raqqa, “are not so important,” he said.

American military officials say the U.S. will not back an operation to join the Kurdish cantons, and officials in Ankara say Turkey will block it by force if necessary.

Bandar al-Humaydi, the head of the tribal Sanadid militia, said that YPG military commanders told him that they had received the first US shipment of 50 tons of ammunition, but that so far the Kurds have not distributed any.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday that the US will increase airstrikes on the Islamic State and carry out raids on the ground while looking for a contraction of ISIS-held territory.

Russia: 71 Aerial Missions on 118 Targets in Past 24 Hours

Resuming its daily count of airstrikes, Russia’s Defense Ministry says its warplanes have conducted 71 sorties and hit 118 targets in Idlib, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Damascus, and Latakia Provinces in the past 24 hours.

Moscow had paused the reports, which portray the Russian campaign as one against the Islamic State and “terrorists”, last weekend. Observers speculated that Russia was growing concerned about the level of civilian casualties, estimated at more than 450 since the start of the bombing on September 30.

3 More Iranian Troops Killed, Death Toll Passes 20 in Past Week

Iranian media are reporting the deaths of three more Revolutionary Guards troops inside Syria — Mohammad Reza Asghari, Jabbar Araghi, and Abuzar Ahmadian.

Ahmadian was reportedly killed near Aleppo.

Iranian outlets have published news of the deaths of more than 20 fighters in the past week, amid Tehran’s involvement in the six-front regime-Russian offensive against Syria’s rebels and the Islamic State.

See Syria Feature: Iran Military’s “4-Level Role” to Keep Assad in Power
Syria Feature: The Killing of Iran’s Commanders and Troops

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Site Claims — Wrongly — “Regime Recaptures City of Jisr al-Shughour”

The English-language site of Fars News, the outlet of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overstepped the mark in its non-stop Syria propaganda on Tuesday with this article:

The Syrian army and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance forces seized back the city of Jisr al-Shughour and its surrounding mountainous areas in the province of Idlib on Tuesday.

Field sources reiterated that the army and the resistance forces are now advancing towards new areas in Idlib Province that are under the control of Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Fateh militants….

At least 300 Takfiri terrorists were killed in Jisr al-Shughour area.

Rebels captured Jisr al-Shughour in late April as part of their offensive taking almost all of Idlib Province.

Pro-Assad outlets have proclaimed that this month’s regime-Russian-Iranian offensive will reclaim Jisr al-Shughour, on the Turkish border, but the assaults have not yet entered Idlib Province, let alone made a significant advance on the city.

Assad Pours Cold Water on Russian Proposal for Early Elections

The Syrian Presidency has pushed away a Russian declaration that there can be early Presidential and Parliamentary elections as part of a political resolution.

President Assad’s office said on Tuesday that it welcomed “any political solution decided by the Syrian people that preserves the state’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”. However, it continued:

As for the ideas and initiatives brought up recently and the talk about what the Syrians might come to agree on in the future, the President has repeatedly stressed in his speeches and interviews that no initiative or ideas can succeed or be implemented unless terrorism is eliminated and security and stability are restored to the country.

Moscow had promoted the idea following Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Assad last week and a subsequent visit by a Russian Parliamentary delegation to Damascus.

Russia Pulls Back Claim That It Met Free Syrian Army Representatives

The Kremlin has pulled back its claim of a meeting with Free Syrian army representatives.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov deflected questions on Tuesday, “Honestly speaking, I would prefer to leave this topic for colleagues from the Foreign Ministry.” He continued:

It was stated on many occasions that certain problems exist with identifying the so-called moderate opposition.

There is also a shortage of interaction with our colleagues in identifying really moderate forces, which could help fight terrorist and extremist organizations in Syria.

Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov claimed on Monday, “They are here all the time. They are various people, who come and go. But everybody says that they are representatives of Free Syrian Army.”

Free Syrian Army officers and the externally-based opposition Syrian National Coalition rejected the statement as “Russian misleading propaganda that aims at diverting attention from failures of the Russian aggression on the Syrian people”.