Al-Qaeda's attack on west-Aleppo is showing little progress while their attempt to break the siege of jihadist held eastern districts of the city was repulsed with heavy losses.
Reports from Aleppo confirm that the offensive for the moment at least, failed, as the Syrian army has recaptured all the key areas captured by Al-Qaeda in Syria [aka Jabhat al Nusra] in the first two days of their counter-offensive.
Jihadists are said to have suffered considerable losses, although the extent of losses could not be clarified.
Remarkably, the Syrian army has achieved success without the intervention of the Russian air support, after president Vladimir Putin refused the Russian General Staff’s request to resume bombing in Aleppo.
A renewed offensive by Al-Qaeda to break the siege of the city can however not be ruled out as the jihadists succeeded for a while in barrelling through Syrian army lines. It took several weeks of intense fighting, and heavy bombing by the Russians before the back of the offensive could be broken.
The Jihadists had launched their counteroffensive against the Ramousseh district in the south west of the city in July, while the Syrian army’s best units were concentrated in the north of the city, along the Castello road.
But after capturing much high ground to the south west of the city, the second Jihadist counter-offensive could be held off.
According to the CIA, 2 000 armed Jihadists were crossing the border from Turkey into Syria every month during the peak period of the war in 2014 and 2015, but in January of this year, following the arrival of Russian air defence, that number fell to 200 a month.
The Iranian news agency Fars, reported that bitter recriminations are underway already over the failure in Aleppo, with the blame being placed on Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini, the nominal leader of the so-called “Army of Conquest”.
Unconfirmed sources say al-Muhaysini is being criticised for his “totally wrong strategy” and for his “naive plans” which have “sent hundreds of fighters to meet their death”.
Moreover Fars has reported on social media comments complaining that “….. al-Muhaysini has sent the foreign members of the militant groups to the Aleppo battlefield to get rid of them.”
Meanwhile reports confirm that Colonel Suheil al-Hassan, the semi-legendary commander of the Syrian army’s elite Tiger Forces, is now in the city with his troops, who are supposedly equipped with advanced Russian T90 tanks, and who include a group of commandos of the Syrian army’s Desert Hawks Special Forces Brigade.
There are also reports that the Russian fleet, which includes the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the nuclear powered missile battle cruiser Pyotr Veliky, has now reached the north African coast, and that it has been joined by two Shchuka-B (“Akula”) class nuclear powered submarines equipped with cruise missiles, and that it is about to enter the Mediterranean.
The New York Times has meanwhile openly admitted to CIA supported groups acting under al-Qaeda’s operational command. The headline-grabbing article was however shoved to the backpages.
Al-Qaeda and its allies managed only to capture small rural outskirts so far. Every attempt to attack actual city dwellings was repelled by the defenders and small infiltrations were immediately cleaned up.
It is estimated that the several thousand attackers have so far lost more than 500 men as fighting occurred in mostly open land accompanied by heavy artillery fire. Russian air attacks had previously ravaged supply and preparation areas.
One of at least 20 similar suicide vehicle bombs was hit by a missile from a Syrian helicopter and exploded at its preparation and launching position. Over 60 “rebels” were killed by it and their attack had to be call off.
The good news is that the defense is holding, but the bad news is that the “rebels” have received large amounts of artillery missiles and launchers from their Gulf sponsors and several hundred have been launched at the densely populated areas of west-Aleppo.
The UN envoy condemned these attacks as “possible war crimes”.
Other fronts in Syria are relatively quiet correspondents say. The Turks have been told by Russia to stop all air attacks within Syria. And while the US would like to advance on Raqqa, no proxy ground force has stepped forward to undertake the arduous task.