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Is the Liberation of Aleppo Near?

Oct. 1, 2016 (EIRNS)—By all accounts the fighting remains fierce, but the Syrian army, backed by its Iranian and Russian allies, appears to slowly be making progress into the jihadi-held section of eastern Aleppo, particularly in the northern and central sections of the city. According to a series of battlefield updates from Al Masdar, the Syrian army is still heavily engaged in northern Aleppo, in the the Shuqayf and Bustan Al-Basha districts that were under the control of opposition Fatah Halab. This particular thrust is directly tied to the campaign farther to the north around the Al Kindi hospital, first captured by jihadi groups in 2013, and the Handarat refugee camp.

"Should the Syrian Armed Forces secure the embattled neighborhood lying at the heart of the nation’s economic capital, they would be in position to assault Ayn Al-Tal district in an attempt to link up with the Syrian forces battling around the infamous Kindi Hospital,"

says Al Masdar. "Such an endeavor would plant the first nail in the coffin of the jihadist presence in the provincial capital." Syrian army forces are also engaged in block-by-block fighting in the district of Suleiman Al-Halabi, in the central part of the city. Al Masdar suggests that once the army succeeds in securing Suleiman Al-Halabi, their next objective will be the Sakhour district, further to the east.

The intensity of the fighting, and of the Russian air campaign in support of it, has, indeed, created fear in Washington that the "fall" of Aleppo to government forces is now inevitable. Obama Administration sources told NBC yesterday that the government has amassed 10,000 troops—from the army, from Hezbollah, from Iranian and various other militias—around the city. The troops, which have been gathering for the last week and are believed to include as many as 3,000 soldiers from Iran, are reportedly preparing for a final ground assault as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looks to crush rebel positions in eastern Aleppo and retake the city, adds Vice News. "It’s hard to say when and if a city or population center could fall. But, you know, given the uptick in violence, given the intensity of it, it’s hard,... it could be soon," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters yesterday.

Adding to the fear expressed by Toner is the report, apparently originating from Izvestia (now a privately-owned newspaper), that Russia has returned combat aircraft back to its base in Latakia, Syria. According to Al Masdar, the aircraft include Su-24 bombers, Su-34 fighter bombers and Su-25 close support aircraft. All three types had participated in the campaign when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial withdrawal in March of 2016. The Su-34’s and the Su-25’s withdrew completely, while about half of the Su-24’s remained. The Russian Defense Ministry has not confirmed this redeployment, but if true, it would be in line with Putin’s statement at the time of the withdrawal that it was only partial, and that aircraft could be sent back at any time if conditions required it.

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