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Wednesday, February 17

Aleppo City: Bad news from South Front, good news from FARS

Just yesterday, in a moment of irrational exuberance, I highlighted a passage from Patrick Bhazad's latest Syrian War sitrep for Sic Semper Tyrannis, in which he wrote in part:
What is interesting from a purely military point of view is that Aleppo [city] itself will not be subject to the scenes of urban combat and carnage that are being conjured by spin doctors in the Gulf and in the West. Most of the city is already under government control.
Patrick might have spoken too soon, at least regarding the specter of carnage in the part of Aleppo still under control of anti-government forces. From South Front's February 17 sitrep:
The Syrian forces are continuing military operations against militants in the city of Aleppo, mainly focused on the districts of Bani Zaid and Layramoun. Bani Zaid is situated next to Aleppo’s most densely populated neighborhoods which [creates] additional obstacles for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). This doesn’t allow the SAA to use all its firepower.
Militants groups have reportedly formed a new coalition in order to oppose advances of the SAA. This alliance is reportedly headed by Ahrar al Sham leader, Hashim al-Sheikh and includes such groups as Ahrar al Sham, Fastaqem, Sultan Murad Division, Suqur Jabal and Muntasir Brigade. This organization will reportedly spend most of its time attempting to stop the SAA advances in the city of Aleppo.
Pro-Western propagandists have already called this group a “major opposition alliance”. However, the ideology of included units clearly shows that this group is common terrorists.
There is more to South Front's sitrep today, chiefly related to Ankara's claim that Russian ballistic missile(s) struck a hospital in Syria. View the video or read the rest of the video transcript at their site. South Front is sited in Russia and while it doesn't seem to be funded by the Russian government given it's very vigorous fundraising pleas, I will assume they have good sources in the country's military. In any case this is the first I'm learning about the new coalition. 

Given the coalition's leader, I am wondering whether it's a Turkish construct financed by Al Saud. From Kim Sengupta's May 12, 2015 report for the (U.K.) Independent, Turkey and Saudi Arabia alarm the West by backing Islamist extremists the Americans had bombed in Syria:
The Army of Conquest – which also numbers the extremist groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa among its seven members – has a command centre in Idlib, northern Syria. Turkish officials admit giving logistical and intelligence support to the command headquarters. Although they deny giving direct help to al-Nusra, they acknowledge that the group would be beneficiaries.
They also acknowledge links with Ahrar al-Sham, which is held to be extremist by the US, but has fought against Isis, as has al-Nusra in some parts of Syria. Turkish officials claim that bolstering Ahrar al-Sham will weaken the influence of al-Nusra.
Material support – arms and money – have been coming from the Saudis, say rebels and officials, with the Turks facilitating its passage [via Turkish-Syrian border villages that Sengupta names in the report].
If Ankara and Riyadh are giving material support to the new coalition, it could do a lot of damage to Damascus' allover war effort by creating carnage in Aleppo, scenes of which the Western news media would use against the Syrian government and it allies.  With their backs against the wall the bad guys don't have much left to bolster their fight beyond a sympathetic media that would put pressure on Western governments to 'do something.'         

I'm unwilling to end on such a grim note, so I'll close by featuring two reports, one from FARS and the other from AMN, both filed today:
Syria: Kurdish Fighters Storm Terrorist Centers in Aleppo Neighborhoods
TEHRAN (FNA - FARS)- The Syrian Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) engaged in heavy fighting with the militant groups in at least two neighborhoods of the Northern city of Aleppo, and pushed the terrorists back from a medical center.
The YPG fighters, who have recently allied with the Syrian government, attacked the militants' centers in the neighborhoods of Bani Zeid and al-Ashrafiyeh and captured the hospital of Hanan following several hours of clashes.
The militants suffered a heavy death toll and retreated from their positions to evade more casualties.

The Kurdish fighters have recently joined the Syria army in the fight against the militant groups in the city of Aleppo.
In a relevant development in the Northern battlefield of the country on Tuesday, militant sites' structures and their hardware were severely razed by Syrian and Russian warplanes in two key towns in the Northern regions of Aleppo province.
The sources in the area confirmed that the joint aerial operation in Anadan and Hraytan inflicted significant damage on the militants, adding a number of terrorists were also killed in the aerial raids.
Also on Tuesday, the Russian and Syrian fighter jets, in a surgical operation over the city of Aleppo targeted several militants' positions across the city inflicting damage on militants' structures and their hardware in different parts of the city.
As Syrian forces are increasing pressure on militants in the Northern parts of the Aleppo province near the Turkish border, militants are struggling to find a way to escape the regions almost besieged by Syrian soldiers and their Kurdish allies.

[END REPORT]
There are several additional reports at FARS today that spell good news for the Syrian Army Coalition, which is now so large it's hard to keep all the participants straight.

Breaking News: Syrian Army seizes the Homs-Damascus Highway
(AMN) In late August 2015, Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) captured several points inside the cities of Harasta and Douma in Greater Damascus to close off the Homs-Damascus Highway from the government forces. For nearly 6 months, the Syrian Armed Forces have attempted to reverse the gains made Jaysh Al-Islam in August; however, they suffered a few setbacks along the way, delaying their recapture of this imperative roadway that stretches from the Syrian capital to the provincial capital of the Homs Governorate.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army’s 105th Brigade of the Republican Guard – backed by the National Defense Forces (NDF) and the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) – captured the remaining points under rebel control in the cities of Harasta and Douma, resulting in the government forces imposing full control over the Homs-Damasccus Highway.
With the Homs-Damascus Highway full under their control, the Syrian Armed Forces can turn their attention to the pockets of resistance in northern Douma and the Industrial District of Harasta.
[END REPORT] 

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