Aleppo offensive (October–December 2013)

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Aleppo offensive (October–December 2013)
Part of the Battle of Aleppo (2012-13) and the Syrian civil war
Aleppo offensive (October 2013).svg
Situation in Aleppo Governorate as of November 2013

     Syrian Army control      Opposition control

Date1 October – 1 December 2013
(2 months)
LocationAleppo Governorate, Syria
ResultSyrian Army victory
  • Syrian Army captures Khanasir, Al-Safira, Tell Aran, Tell Hassel, Base 80 and 20 smaller villages and towns and reopens the highway to Aleppo
Belligerents
Syria Free Syrian Army
  • Jeish Mohammad Brigade[1]

Al-Nusra Front
Ahrar al-Sham
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

  • Nour al-Din al-Zinki
Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Hezbollah[5]

Commanders and leaders
Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi
(Aleppo province FSA top commander) (resigned)[6]
Abdul Qader Saleh 
(Al-Tawhid Brigade top commander)[7][8]
Abou al-Tayyeb 
(Al-Tawhid Brigade intelligence chief)[9]
Unknown
Units involved
Unknown3rd Army Corps (Aleppo)

15th Special Forces Division

  • 35th Special Forces Regiment
  • 127th Special Forces Regiment
  • 403rd Armored Regiment
Strength
UnknownUnknown
Casualties and losses
125+ killed (SOHR claim)[10]105+ killed (SOHR claim)[10]
97+ civilians killed[11][12]
 
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Aleppo offensive (October–December 2013)
Part of the Battle of Aleppo (2012-13) and the Syrian civil war
Aleppo offensive (October 2013).svg
Situation in Aleppo Governorate as of November 2013

     Syrian Army control      Opposition control

Date1 October – 1 December 2013
(2 months)
LocationAleppo Governorate, Syria
ResultSyrian Army victory
  • Syrian Army captures Khanasir, Al-Safira, Tell Aran, Tell Hassel, Base 80 and 20 smaller villages and towns and reopens the highway to Aleppo
Belligerents
Syria Free Syrian Army
  • Jeish Mohammad Brigade[1]

Al-Nusra Front
Ahrar al-Sham
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

  • Nour al-Din al-Zinki
Syria Syrian Arab Republic

Hezbollah[5]

Commanders and leaders
Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi
(Aleppo province FSA top commander) (resigned)[6]
Abdul Qader Saleh 
(Al-Tawhid Brigade top commander)[7][8]
Abou al-Tayyeb 
(Al-Tawhid Brigade intelligence chief)[9]
Unknown
Units involved
Unknown3rd Army Corps (Aleppo)

15th Special Forces Division

  • 35th Special Forces Regiment
  • 127th Special Forces Regiment
  • 403rd Armored Regiment
Strength
UnknownUnknown
Casualties and losses
125+ killed (SOHR claim)[10]105+ killed (SOHR claim)[10]
97+ civilians killed[11][12]

The October–December 2013 Aleppo offensive was a campaign during the Syrian civil war launched by the Syrian army in the Aleppo Governorate to reopen a key supply route linking central Syria to the second largest city, Aleppo. The offensive began when the Syrian Army attacked the strategic town of Khanasir.

Background[edit]

In June 2013, after their strategic capture of al-Qusayr, government forces launched an offensive called Northern Storm in Aleppo Province aimed at securing supply lines between disparate patches of control in the province. However, increased rebel pressure in Homs Province led the government to abandon the offensive and redeploy its troops there, leaving its supply lines to Aleppo city vulnerable to attack.[13]

Later in the summer, rebels capitalised on this strategic weakness. In late July, rebels launched an offensive west of Aleppo city culminating in the capture of several suburbs and a massacre of captured government soldiers, and on 5 August, the long-besieged Menagh Airbase in the north of the province fell to the rebels. On 26 August, rebels captured the strategic town of Khanasir, thus cutting the government's last land supply route to the contested city of Aleppo.[14]

Rebels then turned their sights to the government-controlled southern countryside of Aleppo. On 20 September, a coalition of at least ten rebel groups led by Ahrar al-Sham and the Tawhid Brigade launched an offensive called wal-'Adiyat Dabha against government positions between the southern edge of the city and the defence factories outside of rebel-held Al-Safira. In the first six days of the offensive, rebels made significant advances, claiming to have captured at least 25 villages.[15] In response, government forces from Aleppo International Airport redeployed south to counter the rebel offensive.[13]

The offensive[edit]

Capture of Khanasir and reopening of the highway[edit]

To reopen supply lines to Aleppo city, the government launched a counteroffensive along the so-called "Desert Road" between Aleppo and al-Salamiyah, dispatching a large convoy from the latter backed with heavy air support. Khanasir, captured by rebels in August, was the first major objective of the Army as it occupies a critical chokepoint on the road.

On 1 October, the shelling of Khanasir and fighting between the Army and rebels in the vicinity of the town killed at least 20 rebel fighters. The village of Jub al-Ghaws, near of Khanasir was bombed by helicopters while, according to SOHR, rebel fighters hit a fighter airplane above Khanasir.[16]

On 2 October, according to SOHR, the Syrian Army progressed in Khanasir, taking control of parts of the city while a large number of rebel positions were hit by the Air Force in the province; al-Atareb, Khan al-A'sal, Kafrnaha and Minnegh military airport.[citation needed]

On 3 October, the Army took back control of Khanasir, with at least 25 rebel fighters and 18 pro-government militiamen being killed between 1 and 2 October. However, the military had not yet reopened the highway to Aleppo.[17][18]

On 4 October, eight rebels were killed during fighting with the Army in the al-Hmeira mountain, near al-Safira.[19]

On 7 October, the Army managed to reopen the supply route between Aleppo and Khanasir, capturing many surrounding villages[20] like Rasm Okeiresh, Rasm al-Sheikh, Rasm al-Helou, Rasm Bakrou, al-Wawiyeh, Rasm al-Safa, Barzanieh, Jalagheem, Zarraa, and Kafar Akkad,[21] breaking the siege of Aleppo. According to a governorate source, convoys carrying flour, food supplies, and fuel, went to Aleppo.[21]

On 9 October, rebels massacred government soldiers in a village that had only just been captured by the Army.[22] Elsewhere in the governorate, the Army took the control of other villages; Al-Hamam, Al-Qurbatiy and rebels retreating to Al-Qintein and Al-Bouz.[23]

Fall of al-Safira and Tell Aran[edit]

On 10 October, heavy Army shelling and air-strikes of the rebel-held town al-Safira killed 16-18 civilians. One of the areas that was hit was the town's market. According to one rebel, if opposition forces loose control of al-Safira everything they had accomplished over the previous year in Aleppo would be lost in a matter of days.[22][24]

On 11 October, after clashes, the Army captured the village of Abu Jurayn, in the south of al-Safira.[25]

On 17 and 18 October, heavy Army shelling of the rebel-held Kurdish town of Tell Aran left 21 civilians dead. 11 others were also injured. The town had been captured from Kurdish militants by jihadist rebels earlier in July.[12]

By 25 October, 76 people had been killed in the shelling of al-Safira since 8 October.[11] More than 130,000 people fled the city.[26]

On 30 October, the Syrian army entered al-Safira and took over several buildings in the southern part of the city and also advanced on the eastern side the next day.[27] By the morning of 1 November, the Army captured the town.[28]

On 2 November, the Army, supported by Hezbollah officers,[29] captured the village of Aziziyeh on the northern outskirts of Safira.[30]

On 4 November, following the loss of Al-Safira, the Free Syrian Army top commander for the province of Aleppo, Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, resigned.[6]

On 6 November, the Army captured most of the Kurdish town of Tell Aran forcing opposition fighters out of it.[31][32] Some fighting was still occurring in Tell Aran as of 10 November,[33] however, the Army secured the town by the next day.[34]

Battle of Base 80[edit]

On 8 November, before sunrise, the Syrian Army launched an attack against "Base 80", controlled by the rebels since February 2013, near the Aleppo airport. The Army, backed up by tanks and heavy artillery, unleashed "the heaviest barrage in more than a year" according to residents in Aleppo. A rebel fighter said, "We did not see it coming. The attack came as a real shock to us." According to Al-Jazeera, if the Army captured the base, it would cut the rebel supply routes between Aleppo city and the opposition-controlled town of al-Bab, about 30 kilometers from the Turkish border.[35] By morning, the Army took over several areas of "Base 80", leaving them in control of large parts of it. Later in the afternoon, rebel forces, including ISIS, received reinforcements and regrouped, after which they attacked the base. During the fighting, two dozen air and artillery strikes struck rebel positions.[36][37] After dark, rebels counter-attacked and by dawn the next day managed to recapture most of the base, with fighting still occurring around it.[38][39] During the attack, rebels used GRAD rockets to strike the base.[40]

On 10 November, fighting still continued around "Base 80", with reports of more fighting inside the base itself. During the clashes, rebels targeted two Army armored vehicles, while one rebel tank was destroyed, killing five rebel fighters.[41][42] By the afternoon, the Army was once again in full control of the base.[43] According to the SOHR, 63 rebels,[44] including at least 11 foreign fighters,[39] and 32 soldiers were killed during the battle.[44] One other report put the number of rebels killed between 60 and 80.[45] Army units were backed-up by Hezbollah fighters and pro-government militias during the assault.[44]

By 11 November, the military had captured a series of nearby positions,[46] securing most of the area around Aleppo International Airport.[34]

Aleppo's eastern approach and attack on Tell Hassel[edit]

On 12 November, the Syrian Army had penetrated the town of al-Naqqarin in the eastern outskirts of Aleppo city, advancing further north. Opposition activists said the Army "launched a pincer movement from the north and the east and were closing in on major rebel held neighborhoods". At the same time, government forces inside the city, backed by tanks, had taken two highrise buildings in the northern Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid districts, and advanced into the two neighbourhoods after close-quarter street fighting.[47]

On 13 November, Syrian Air Force helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel positions in Tell Hassel, south of Aleppo,[48] while the military advanced toward the town and fighting raged near it.[49][50]

On 14 November, an air strike killed the intelligence commander of the rebel Al-Tawhid Brigade and wounded the top leader of the unit, while they were meeting at a base in Aleppo. One other commander was also injured.[51] That night, the leader of the Al-Tawhid Brigade, Abdulkader al-Saleh, died of his wounds in Turkey. However, his death was kept secret for four days until he could be buried.[52][53]

On 15 November, the military captured Tell Hassel,[54][55] with the rebels retreating to one of their strongholds near the town. By the end of the day, government forces secured the al-Safira road that connects Aleppo with the defence factories on the outskirts of al-Safira.[citation needed] The same day, a former Army colonel, who commanded another rebel brigade, was killed in fighting in the Maaret al-Artiq area, northwest of Aleppo city.[56][57]

On 17 November, rebels blew up a bridge linking Tell Hassel and the cable, battery and tractor factories, which were still under rebel control, halting the military motorcade that was advancing towards the plants. Another military motorcade was reportedly advancing towards the rebel-held town of Bellat on the Aleppo-al-Bab highway. Later, government sources reported the Army managed to capture the factory area.[58][59] According to local activists, opposition forces started to retreat from the village of al-Duwayrinah and the industrial area adjacent to Tell Hassel.[60] The same day, a group of 15 ISIS rebel fighters conducted a raid into Tell Aran, which lead to fighting that left 10 of the fighters dead as well as 18 government soldiers. The fate of the other five rebels remained unknown.[61]

On 18 November, fighting still raged in al-Naqqarin, on the eastern edge of Aleppo,[62] while on 19 November, the Army captured al-Duwayrinah.[63]

By 24 November, it was reported that government forces started a push into the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone in the northeastern part of Aleppo.[64]

On 30 November, Army helicopters targeted a rebel compound in al-Bab, but missed their target and hit a market, killing 26 people, including four children. The next day, the helicopters once again attacked the town, targeting a compound of the Tawhid Brigade, but missed their target and hit the Nafasin market instead,[65] killing 24 people.[66] Most of those killed in the second attack were civilians, but also included three rebel fighters. In both attacks, the helicopters dropped barrel bombs.[65]

At the beginning of December, it was confirmed the Army captured al-Naqqarin and was advancing towards Tiyara. Meanwhile, rebels were retreating from the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, especially from the “Zone 3” buildings, after the military took control of Sheikh Yusuf hill, which overlooks Zone 3.[67] On 1 December, Sama TV reported that the Army managed to capture the town of Tiyara, northeast of the al-Nairab air base, showing images of SAA soldiers inside the town.[68]

Attempted rebel counter-attack[edit]

On 21 November, 15 government militiamen were killed fighting rebels near Base 80.[69] A rebel commander was among the dead on the opposition's side.[70]

On 25 November, rebels started a counter-attack in the area around Khanasser.[71] By the next day, the rebels managed to capture several villages, but were not able to block the highway to prevent a further Army advance.[72] Days later, the Army recaptured the six villages that rebel forces managed to seize.[67]

On 28 November, government and rebel forces clashed in the outskirts of Aziza, west of the airport, leaving 20 government fighters and 11 rebels dead.[73]

Aftermath - Aleppo air blitz[edit]

On 7 December, an air raid on the town of Bezaa killed at least 20 people, including eight children and nine women.[74]

Between 15 and 28 December, a series of Army helicopter attacks with barrel bombs[75] against rebel-held areas of Aleppo left 517 people dead, including 151 children, 46 women and 46 rebels, according to the SOHR.[76] 76 of those killed died on the first day alone,[77] while 93–100 people were killed on 22 December.[78] By 18 December, 879 people were wounded.[79] During the first four days the attacks were concentrated on Aleppo city, but on 19 December, the helicopter strikes were expanded to include surrounding villages.[80] A rebel commander claimed that by 26 December, more than 1,000 people had been killed in the bombing campaign.[81]

On 25 December, pro-government sources claimed that the Syrian Army captured the al-Jbanat area near Aleppo's al-Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood.[82]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ISIS and al-Nusra reportedly lose their final presence in Reef Ras al-A’in: al-Hasaka
  2. ^ a b Par: rédaction 3/10/13 - 15h25  Source: Belga (2013-10-03). "L'armée reprend une localité clé pour Alep". 7SUR7.be. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  3. ^ Syria air force strikes rebels near Damascus, Aleppo: NGO Al Ahram (AFP), 22 October 2013
  4. ^ http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/baath-party-brigade-syria-war-aleppo.html#
  5. ^ "Syria rebels recapture army base near Aleppo airport". Reuters (South African Broadcasting Corporation). 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  6. ^ a b Leading FSA commander quits, lashes out at lack of support
  7. ^ Syria air strike hits Islamist brigade leadership Al Ahram (AFP), 15 November 2013
  8. ^ Top Syrian rebel commander dies from wounds (Reuters), 18 November 2013
  9. ^ "Syrie : cinq commandants rebelles tués dans des combats et des raids". L'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights". Facebook. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  11. ^ a b Syrian media say troops ambush, kill 40 rebels near Damascus; Kurdish fighters battle jihadis
  12. ^ a b Friday 18 October 2013
  13. ^ a b Caris, Charlie; Isabel Nassief (26 September 2013). "The wal-'Adiyat Dabha Offensive in Southern Aleppo". Institute for the Study of War. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Syria rebels take control of strategic town". Al Jazeera English. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Names of villages (from The Institute for the Study of War): Kafr Hout, al-Zaraa, Kafr Kar, Banan al-Has, Sarj Far'a, Balouza, Burj 'Azawi, Madrasa village, Im Jaran, Qanatrat, Samaria, Maghriyat al-Shebli, al-Mayan, al-Manatir, Rasm al-Safa, Rasm Humud, Mazraa Ali Hussein, Diyman, Sada’aya, Rasm al-Shih, Mazraa al-Ayoub, Rasm al-Hilwa, Tayeba, Rasm 'Akirish, and al-Sufayrah
  16. ^ Tuesday 1 October 2013
  17. ^ Syria army retakes northern strategic town
  18. ^ Wednesday 2 October 2013
  19. ^ Friday 4 October 2013
  20. ^ "Syria Live Blog". Al Jazeera English. 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  21. ^ a b "Syrian Army Ends Opposition Siege on Aleppo". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 2013-10-08. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  22. ^ a b Battles Rage Around Syria Chemical Weapons Sites
  23. ^ "Regime forces control the Hama-Aleppo highway". Syria Newsdesk. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  24. ^ Thursday 10 October 2013
  25. ^ "Syrie: violents combats près d'un site chimique présumé". L'Orient-Le Jour. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  26. ^ Syria: Civilians forced to flee Al Safira under heavy bombardment
  27. ^ Government pushes ahead with campaign in Aleppo, Damascus
  28. ^ "Syrian forces capture town near chemical weapons site: Activists". Daily Star. 1 November 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  29. ^ the Regular forces took hold of the al-A'ziziya village
  30. ^ "Air raids on rebel areas near Damascus, Kurds advance: NGO". Agence France Presse (Yahoo! News). 
  31. ^ "Deadly bomb rocks central Damascus". NOW News. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  32. ^ "A bomb explosion rocked the heart of the Syrian ca...". Al Jazeera English. 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2013-11-18. 
  33. ^ Syrian army retakes northern military base in third day of clashes
  34. ^ a b Syria army seeks to reopen Aleppo airport: military
  35. ^ Syria Live Blog
  36. ^ Syria army retakes parts of base by Aleppo airport: NGO
  37. ^ Syrian army closes in on Aleppo after dawn attack
  38. ^ Syria Rebels Retake Key Base
  39. ^ a b Syria rebels recapture army base near Aleppo airport
  40. ^ Syria opposition wants pressure on Damascus before agreeing to talks
  41. ^ Sunday 10 November 2013
  42. ^ Clashes break out between YPG and ISIS
  43. ^ Syria Activists: Truce Reached in Blockaded Town
  44. ^ a b c Syria army retakes key base near Aleppo: state TV
  45. ^ Two Danes allegedly die fighting in Syria
  46. ^ Syria-based groups say talks may be 'last chance'
  47. ^ Boosted by foreign Shi'ite militia, Assad's forces advance on Aleppo
  48. ^ Syrian Troops Make Inroads South of Damascus
  49. ^ Jihadists call for mass mobilisation to counter army advances in north Syria
  50. ^ Army advances as jihadists call to arms in north Syria
  51. ^ Syrian air raid kills rebel commander in Aleppo: activists
  52. ^ Top Syrian rebel commander Abdul Qadir al-Saleh dies
  53. ^ Syrian Rebel Leader Dies After Government Attack
  54. ^ Assad's forces advance in northern Syria towards Aleppo
  55. ^ Syrian troops regain town in southeast of Aleppo
  56. ^ Syria air strike hits Islamist brigade leadership
  57. ^ Syrian regime forces target rebel commanders
  58. ^ Militants Flee Strategic Region in Aleppo Countryside
  59. ^ Syrian Arab Army advances in Aleppo… Civilians martyred and injured in an attack, Damascus
  60. ^ Regime forces advance on southern Aleppo front
  61. ^ Monday 18 November 2013
  62. ^ Syria rebel chieftain killed; Assad forces bomb besieged town
  63. ^ Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry their weapons as they look on the ground in al-Dwayrineh village near the main highway leading Aleppo to Raqqa after capturing it from rebels
  64. ^ Aleppo gears for major regime offensive
  65. ^ a b Activists: New Syrian strike near Aleppo kills 11
  66. ^ 50 killed in air strikes on Syrias Al-Bab
  67. ^ a b Syrian opposition searches for regime spies
  68. ^ حلب - قرية تيارا في منطقة جبل سمعان آمنة .. وتقدم الجيش مستمر Sama TV, 2 December 2013
  69. ^ Fighting for Aleppo base kills 15 Syria militia: NGO
  70. ^ Syria Update, November 25, 2013 (Institute of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Strategic Studies. By Sherifa Zuhur)
  71. ^ Syria rebels press advance around Damascus and Aleppo
  72. ^ Free Syrian Army says no ceasefire for Geneva talks
  73. ^ Thursday 28 November 2013
  74. ^ Syrian Islamists seize Western-backed rebel bases -monitoring group
  75. ^ Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists
  76. ^ 517 dead in fortnight of regime strike in Syria
  77. ^ Syria bomb raids on Aleppo 'kill 135'
  78. ^ Regime’s ‘barrel bombs’ bring death, terror to Syrian city
  79. ^ Syrian air raids exact high toll on Aleppo
  80. ^ Syria extends air campaign on Aleppo region: activists
  81. ^ Syria: Intense Aleppo offensive prompts mass exodus
  82. ^ The Army retakes al-Sheikh Maqsoud and al-Jbanat area of Aleppo