Assad forces seen massing for ‘final push’ into Aleppo

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NICOSIA — Syrian President Bashar Assad has been preparing a major offensive against the rebel presence in Aleppo.

Opposition sources said the Syrian Army has been reinforcing forces around the northern city of Aleppo.

Syrian regime troops in Aleppo.  /Reuters
Syrian regime troops in Aleppo. /Reuters

The sources said thousands of troops as well as main battle tanks and armored personnel vehicles arrived in bases around Syria’s largest city amid the flight of its residents.

“The Assad regime believes that the rebels are weak enough for a final push,” a source said.

On Feb. 2, Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Freij toured the front along Aleppo. The visit took place amid intensified operations around the city, 60 percent of which was controlled by Assad.

“The reinforcements are moving into the city,” Free Syrian Army commander in Aleppo, identified as Abu Bara, said.

The sources said the Syrian Army captured about 30 percent of Aleppo
over the last three months. They said the opposition still controlled much
of the countryside of the Aleppo province.

The Assad offensive was being planned from the military base at Aleppo
International Airport. The sources said the airport was used for daily
helicopter attacks on rebel strongholds.

The rebels have been significantly weakened in northern Syria. The
sources said fighting with Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,
believed linked to the Assad regime, was killing thousands of rebels.

The military assault as well as the war with ISIL has emptied much of
Aleppo. The sources said tens of thousands of people were leaving the city
and trying to cross the border into Turkey.

“People are fleeing in large numbers,” the opposition-aligned Aleppo
Media Center said on Feb. 4. “Neighborhoods have become ghost towns,
with shops closed and residents leaving their homes.”

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