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Aleppo offensive (October–December 2013)
Part of the Battle of Aleppo (2012–present) 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
Result

Syrian Army strategic 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[4]
Commanders and leaders
Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi
(Aleppo province FSA top commander) (resigned)[5]
Abdul Qader Saleh
(Al-Tawhid Brigade top commander)[6][7]
Abou al-Tayyeb
(Al-Tawhid Brigade intelligence chief)[8]
Brig. Gen. Suheil al-Hasan[9]
Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Ramadan (35th Regiment)
Units involved
Unknown

3rd Army Corps (Aleppo) 15th Special Forces Division

  • 35th Special Forces Regiment
  • 127th Special Forces Regiment
  • 403rd Armored Regiment
Strength
Unknown 7,000 soldiers
Casualties and losses
125+ killed[10] 105+ killed[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

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

Capture of Khanasir and reopening of the highway

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]

Capture of al-Safira and Tell Aran

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 lost 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.[5]

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

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

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

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

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] By the end of 6 January, the death toll in the bombings had risen to 603, including 172 children, 54 women and 52 rebels.[82] On 9 January, aid groups stated more than 700 people had been killed since the start of the bombing campaign.[83]

On 25 December, pro-government sources claimed that the Syrian Army captured the al-Jbanat area near Aleppo's al-Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood.[84]

Renewed ground offensive

On 11 January 2014, government forces secured the area of al-Naqqarin and Sheikh Yusuf hill[85] and were advancing towards the industrial area of Aleppo city.[86] According to opposition activists, the rebels were in fear of losing the industrial district, which would cut their supply lines from Turkey. The next day, the Army also advanced towards the highway linking the airport to the government-held western part of the city.[87]

On 14 January, the Army reportedly captured al-Zarzour, al-Taaneh, al-Subeihieh and Height 53 on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo.[88][89] On 15 January, an Al-Manar correspondent reported that the Army captured al-Sabaheyya, al-Faory and Tal-Riman, east of Al-Safira,[90] and was pushing towards the electricity station, northeast of Al-Safira.[91] Later, Al-Manar claimed that the Army captured Tall Alam and Huwejna, east of Aleppo, also on the approaches to the electricity station.[92] At the same time, government troops pushed out of Kweires military airport, east of Aleppo and the station, and captured villages around the base.[93]

On 17 January, the Army bombarded the villages of Tal-Na'am, Jobul and Tal-Estabel and captured the village of Tal-Sobeha.[94] By 18 January, it was confirmed government troops captured the town of Tall Alam, just west of the power plant. Sheikh Zayat, on the southern outskirts of the industrial zone, was also captured.[95]

On 21 January, clashes took place around the village of Balat, accompanied by an air raid on the village.[96]

On 22 January, the Army made an attempt to advance on the central Aziziyeh district of Aleppo city.[97] At the same time, the town of Aziza, on the southern outskirts of Aleppo, came under rebel attack which was continuing as of 24 January.[98]

On 25 January, the Army captured the neighborhood of Karam Al Qasr on the eastern side of Aleppo city, after three days of fighting.[99]

On 27 January, fighting was renewed in the area of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo's Old City, as the rebels claimed of destroying a Hezbollah base at Mount Hoihna and capturing most of the buildings in the town Maarath Al-Artik, on Aleppo's northwest outskirts.[100]

On 28 January, rebels captured the Maarath Al-Artik mountain, which the Army used to shell nearby rebel-held towns.[101] On the same day, the Army made more advances and seized the districts of Ballura and Kasr al-Tarrab, according to the pro-government al-Watan newspaper. It too said that an operation had been launched from Nairab airport in the east, as well as Aziza village in the south, while adding that troops had reached the outskirts of Mayssar, a rebel bastion in southeast Aleppo. At the same time, the SOHR confirmed the military captured the Karm al-Qasr district, on the southeastern edge of Aleppo, and reported that residents of Mayssar, Marjeh and Enzarrat districts were fleeing their homes for "neighbourhoods controlled by regime forces because of the fighting".[102][103]

During the month of January, government forces also pushed into the Old City district of Aleppo and captured the Farafra area.[104]

On 2 February, the Al-Watan newspaper announced that the Army captured most of the eastern Karam al-Turab district of Aleppo.[105]

On 16 February, government forces captured the village of Sheikh Najjar, south of the industrial zone,[106] as well as Talet al-Ghali, on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo.[107][108]

On 19 February, rebels claimed to had recaptured Sheikh Najjar, while, the SOHR stated it was unclear who controlled the area.[109] The next day, the Army re-secured Sheikh Najjar[110] and captured two strategic hills that overlook the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, al-Ghalia and Syriatel.[111]

On 24 February, the Army made progress in the Sheikh Najjar industrial zone, with rebels sending reinforcements to the area. The military was attempting to capture strategic areas in Sheikh Najjar that overlook the outskirts of the Aleppo central prison, which had been under a rebel siege for over a year. The Army hoped to station artillery at those positions to help fend off attacks on the prison.[112] The next day, the military captured the factory of the Zanoubia ceramic company in the southern al-Sheikh Sa'id district of Aleppo. Soldiers, NDF militiamen and Hezbollah fighters also captured new positions near Base 80, putting them one kilometer from the Tariq al-Bab district.[113][114] The area they captured included the districts of Talat Barkat and al-Ard al-Hamra.[108][115]

On 27 February, the military reportedly captured Brakat hill, reaching to the east of the al-Sakan al-Shababi area of Aleppo city.[116]

On 2 March, government forces captured the Majbal al-Zeft area near the Aleppo central prison,[117] as well as the Al-Khaledia neighborhood of Aleppo city.[118]

On 3 March, there were conflicting claims of the takeover of the Al-Majbal area with both the Army and the opposition claiming to be in control.[119][120] The military also claimed to be on the verge of breaking the siege of the prison after capturing 60 percent of the industrial zone and surrounding the rebels in the area.[119]

At this time,[121] rebels attempted to halt the Army advance on Aleppo's outskirts by attacking government-held villages south of the city, and thus trying to block the Army supply route (Aleppo-Khanaser-Hama). However, military reinforcements arrived to reinforce these positions and the attempted rebel advance was stopped.[122]

On 9 March, fighting was once again raging around Al-Majbal hill, near the central prison.[123] By this point, government forces had captured a strategic hill, where they positioned artillery to bombard rebel positions around the prison. The Army had also reportedly captured the eastern Hanano district of Aleppo city and was planning to open a new road that would link Hanano and the industrial zone, after it is captured, thus imposing a blockade on the city.[122]

In late March, western diplomats stated the Army was in control of over 80 percent of Aleppo city and was slowly advancing to completely encircle the city for a possible summer final assault.[124]

See also

References

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  118. Aleppo province 2
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  120. Aleppo province 3
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  123. Aleppo province
  124. Assad’s forces surround Aleppo, now control 80 percent of Syria’s largest city

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