In a new attempt to shuffle the cards in northern Syria, which is currently witnessing conflicts at different levels, the jihadist and extremist factions have launched rocket attacks, mostly reaching the government-controlled neighborhoods in the southwestern part of Aleppo. Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra has deployed its forces near demarcation lines with the Syrian army, as a way to lead the battle after other groups have failed to break into the city.
More than 300 rockets and shells descended on the city, killing 42 civilians and wounding about 200, which made [June 15] the bloodiest in Aleppo since the outbreak of the crisis about five years ago.
A pro-opposition source told As-Safir that the armed factions began to unite their ranks three months ago under a “single operations room” — dubbed “Aleppo Conquest Operations Room” — in order to storm the city. The countries supporting the factions, namely Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, started to send the weapons and equipment needed to break into the city, according to a major plan to conquer Idlib and Aleppo.
In Idlib, the work has effectively started so that Jabhat al-Nusra would take the lead, which has led to much international pressure being placed on the states supporting the factions. Eventually, as a striking force, Jabhat al-Nusra has been excluded from the ranks of the armed groups.
This has foiled the plan that was set for Aleppo. Factions received orders to “stand their ground and wait,” which has been interpreted as “a conquest failure” among the armed groups. Many media statements by sources following up on the conflict in northern Syria were issued to mourn the battle before it even started. What has changed?
The pro-opposition source spoke of urgent orders made to the factions affiliated with the Aleppo Conquest Operations Room to heavily bomb the city’s neighborhoods. During the clashes, the Badr Martyrs Battalion, based in Bani Zaid neighborhood, was using a Turkey-made rocket launcher in preparation for the “Aleppo Conquest.” This explains the heavy firepower on the axes connected to the neighborhood north of the city.
Following the orders to bomb the government-controlled neighborhoods in the city, Jabhat-al-Nusra-affiliated factions moved closer to the contact points with the Syrian army, in the axes of Bani Zaid and al-Rashidin, and were stationed in the rear lines of the factions that are deployed here.
Some of the factions on the contact lines considered the order to bomb the city as an order to storm it. The Aleppo Conquest Operations Room launched a few violent attacks on al-Rashidin axes west of the city, and on the axes of Bani Zaid and Lirmoun, in an attempt to break into the city. In al-Rashidin area, US-made TAO missiles targeted some of the Syrian army’s military vehicles, allowing the factions to “make a few meters progress in the area,” according to a military source. However, the army forces contained the attack and hit back.
The pro-opposition source stressed that “breaking into Aleppo is not possible without the participation of Jabhat al-Nusra,” which owns the deadliest weapons, i.e., the suicide bombers. Bombing the city was made “to test the waters and the reaction of the Syrian army, as well as to send a message to the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who is currently visiting Damascus. De Mistura held several meetings with Syrian diplomats before meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The factions have previously conveyed a message to the UN envoy to express their rejection of his former endeavors to freeze the fighting in Aleppo before he started on working for a third meeting in Geneva on Syria,” the source added.
Regarding the close proximity of Jabhat al-Nusra to the site of the clashes, the source said, “Jabhat al-Nusra has brought in a thousand fighters from Idlib and Aleppo and is waiting for the factions to fail in their mission, in order to lead the way and try to exert its authority by force.”
It is remarkable that there was no major media campaign accompanying the violent attack on Aleppo, which was what the Aleppo Conquest Operations Room and its supporting states started to do at the beginning. However, no statements were made later on as there was no news on the latest attacks on any of the groups' websites, Twitter or Facebook, which were created to cover the developments of the “conquest of the city.” This demonstrates that “the order to bomb the city was made hastily and is currently limited to targeting the city only and to engage in side battles on the already flared fronts.”
A military source confirmed that the Syrian army and the supporting factions have deterred attacks and contained the situation. The source added that Syrian air forces have intensified airstrikes on the missile launching locations toward the city, managing to destroy several bases. In the meantime, the Syrian army forces have intensified the combing of the areas of contact with the armed factions, which help stop the attack on several axes.
In the same vein, the military source added that the Syrian army has reinforced its presence on several contact points and sent reinforcements to different axes. Meanwhile, the supporting factions (including the National Defense Force, the Baath Brigades, the Local Defense force and al-Quds Brigade) have also reinforced their forces on the contact points so as to hold off any sudden attacks in the future.