Battle of Aleppo (2012–present)
||This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (December 2012)|
- For the First World War battle, see Battle of Aleppo.
|Battle of Aleppo
|Part of the Syrian Civil War|
Situation in Aleppo in April 2014
Syrian Army control Opposition control PYD control Ongoing confrontation or unclear situation (For a war map of the area around Aleppo, see ISIS Controlhere)
| Syrian National Coalition
| Syrian Arab Republic
|Commanders and leaders|
(FSA Aleppo top commander)
(FSA Aleppo deputy commander)
Abdelqadir al-Saleh †
(Al-Tawhid Brigade top commander)
Yusef al-Jader †
Yussef Al-Abbas †
Ebu Mohammed Suleiman
(Sultan Abdulhamid Han Brigade)
Abu Khalid al-Suri †
( Islamic Front)
|Ali Abdullah Ayyoub
(Chief of the General Staff)
(Head of Aleppo military operations)
(Governor of Aleppo)
Abbas Samii †
(Republican Guard Commander)
(al-Berri tribe leader)
|15,000 fighters||20,000 troops mobilised
|Casualties and losses|
|2,170+ killed||2,000+ killed
120 captured by FSA (later released)
The Battle of Aleppo (Arabic: معركة حلب) is an ongoing military confrontation in Aleppo, Syria between the Free Syrian Army, Islamic Front, People's Protection Units and jihadist against the Syrian government and Hezbollah. The battle began on 19 July 2012 as a part of the Syrian Civil War. Clashes escalated in late July in Syria's largest city that holds great strategic and economic importance. The battle's scale and importance led combatants to name it the "mother of battles". The battle has been highly noted for the Syrian army's indiscriminate use of barrel bombs dropped from warplanes, killings thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands to evacuate.
- 1 Onset
- 2 Combatants
- 3 Battle
- 3.1 Rebel attack and capture of Eastern Aleppo
- 3.2 Fighting in city center and army reinforcements
- 3.3 Salaheddine raid
- 3.4 Continued rebel advance
- 3.5 Stalemate
- 3.6 Rebel withdrawal from Salaheddine
- 3.7 Army attack on Saif al-Dawla
- 3.8 Clashes in Christian districts
- 3.9 War of attrition
- 3.10 Hanano and Midan fighting
- 3.11 Continued clashes
- 3.12 September rebel offensive
- 3.13 Aleppo Square bombings, Old City and Eastern Aleppo fighting
- 3.14 October rebel offensive, Kurdish-Rebel fighting
- 3.15 Rebel capture of bases and fighting in West
- 3.16 Aleppo perimeter battles
- 3.17 Operation Northern Storm
- 3.18 Rebel offensive in the West
- 3.19 Battle of Base 80 and Army advances
- 3.20 Air force offensive
- 3.21 Renewed Army ground offensive
- 3.22 Rebel offensive in western Aleppo
- 4 Strategic analysis
- 5 Reactions
- 6 References
The uprising began on 15 March 2011, with nationwide demonstrations. The inhabitants of Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, initially remained largely uninvolved. In fact, the two cities experienced rallies in the tens of thousands in support of the Assad government.
As the government launched crackdowns and sieges in restive towns and cities, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion. Opposition forces composed of military defectors and civilian volunteers clashed with security forces across the country.
Fighting in Aleppo governorate began on 10 February 2012. Over the next five months, major clashes left large parts of the rural countryside under rebel control, while the provincial capital, Aleppo city, remained firmly under government control. On 19 July 2012, rebel forces stormed the city and the battle began.
At the beginning of the Battle of Aleppo, rebels reportedly fielded between 6,000 and 7,000 fighters within 18 battalions. The largest was the al-Tawhid Brigade. The most prominent was the Free Syrian Army, largely composed of army defectors. Most Syrian rebels hail from the Aleppo countryside, from towns such as Al-Bab, Marea, Azaz, Tel Rifaat and Manbij. However, a resident reportedly accused the rebels of using civilian homes as shelter. On 19 November 2012, the rebel fighters initially rejected the newly formed Syrian National Coalition, most notably the al-Tawhid Brigade and the al-Nusra Front. The next day the rebels withdrew their rejection.
Looting for supplies became a common occurrence among rebel fighters by December, switching their loyalties to groups who had more to share. This new approach led to incidents such as the killing of at least one rebel commander following a dispute, the loss of a frontline position due to fighters retreating with their loot and the failure of an attack on a Kurdish neighborhood. The looting cost the fighters significant popular support.
Islamic extremists and foreign fighters joined the fight. Many of them were experienced and came from the ongoing insurgency in neighboring Iraq. Jihadists reportedly came from across the Muslim World. Jacques Bérès, a French surgeon who treated wounded fighters, reported a significant number of foreign fighters, most with Islamist goals and were not directly interested in Bashar al-Assad. They included Libyans, Chechens and Frenchmen. He said this was in stark contrast to Idlib and Homs, where foreign forces were not common. Some FSA brigades cooperated with Mujahideen fighters.
The Syrian government retained support in Aleppo. A rebel commander stated that "around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime". However, during the course of the battle, Assad lost support from Aleppo's wealthy class. CBS News reported that 48 elite businessmen who were the primary financiers for the Syrian government switched sides. For the first time, the Syrian Army engaged in an urban warfare. They divided their forces into groups of 40 soldiers each. The soldiers were mostly armed with automatic rifles and anti-tank rockets. Artillery, tanks and helicopters are used only as a support. In August the Army deployed its elite units. Eventually, after the rebels executed Shabiha and Zeino al-Berri (tribal leader of the al-Berri tribe) the tribe joined the fight against the rebels. Some Christians supported the Army and formed militias after the capture of their quarters by the special forces of the Syrian Army. The (Christian) Armenians also supported the Syrian Army. Aleppo's Armenians claimed that Turkey supported the FSA in order to attack Armenians. Arab Christian and Armenian militia had around 150 fighters.
At the beginning Aleppo's Kurds formed armed groups, most notably the Kurdish Salahaddin Brigade. The brigade worked with the opposition, while the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) had poor relations with both sides. The PYD's Popular Protection Committees stayed out of Arab areas and insisted that the FSA stay out of the Kurdish area. They did not fight the Syrian Army unless attacked. The Kurdish areas in Aleppo were mainly under PYD control. Four hundred Turkmen joined the battle under Sultan Abdulhamid Han.
Rebel attack and capture of Eastern Aleppo
Gunfire between rebels and security forces broke out on the night of 19 July 2012 in and around Salaheddine, a district in the city's southwest portion. It is unclear whether the district had a strong rebel presence before the battle began, or was captured by opposition fighters coming from the outskirts. Meanwhile, thousands of rebel soldiers from Aleppo's northern and eastern countryside began to move towards the city.
Fighting in Salaheddine continued into the next day, as the Syrian Army began shelling rebel-controlled districts with artillery and attack helicopters. By the early afternoon of 21 July, rebel forces had penetrated Aleppo's northeastern neighborhoods of Haydariya and Sakhour, where they clashed with the Syrian Army. The fighting drove many residents to safer areas.
On 22 July, fighting had spread from Salaheddine and neighboring Saif al-Dawla to al-Jameeliya and its surrounding neighborhoods near the city center, leading to a battle for the city's main intelligence headquarters. By the next day, rebels on the eastern front captured Helweniyeh, and according to a rebel commander, Hanano and the industrial area of Sheikh Najjar as well. Meanwhile, continuing clashes near the city center included a rebel attack on the state TV station and the central prison, where a massacre conducted by security forces had taken place, according to activists. Throughout the day, power was out in much of the city.
Fighting in city center and army reinforcements
On 24 July 2012, the FSA launched an offensive to take the city center, leading to heavy fighting near the gates of the Old City, a United Nations World heritage site. Rebel forces on the eastern front continued to push westwards. The FSA set up checkpoints in the eastern al-Sahkour district. Later that day, the Syrian Army employed fighter jets for the first time to bomb rebel-held districts.
During the next two days, the government sent thousands of reinforcements to Aleppo. The troops were sent mostly via the M5 highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo from the city's south, and the main Aleppo-Latakia road from the city's west. Rebels conducted deadly attacks on arriving troops. Among the reinforcements that massed on the outskirts of Aleppo were special forces units. By day's end 10,000 soldiers had massed around Aleppo and its countryside. By comparison, 1500 to 2000 rebel fighters from around northern Syria arrived to assist the 2,000 already fighting. Fighting raged in the Old City and in the central districts of Jamaliya, Kalasseh, and Bustan al-Qasr.
On 27 July, skirmishes occurred on the outskirts as reinforcements continued to arrive. Rebel forces advanced to the central district of Fardous, despite continued bombardment. Kurdish fighters, who had gained control over most of the northern districts of Sheikh Maqsud and Al-Ashrafiya, clashed with Syrian troops a day after they attacked a Kurdish convoy on the airport road.
On the morning of 28 July 2012, the Syrian Army started an attack against Salaheddine district, which held the largest concentration of rebels. The assault commenced with an eight-hour artillery bombardment, which started at four in the morning, after which tanks and ground troops moved in. During the clashes, rebels, providing unverified video footage, claimed to have shot down a government helicopter gunship, a rare feat. Rebels also claimed that 8–10 tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed. Rebel forces attacked a strategic police station in the city center for the third day, in an attempt to link up with opposition forces in the northeastern Sakhour district on the eastern front. By the end of the day, the rebels had repelled the assault, but the bombardment continued. Among the FSA fighters killed was a battalion commander. On the next day, fighting continued in Salaheddine. Syrian Army soldiers were reportedly defecting, bringing their tanks. In the evening, state media reported that Salaheddine had been recaptured by the Army. The opposition contrarily claimed to control 35 to 40 percent of the city.
Continued rebel advance
In late July and early August 2012, the FSA continued its offensive in Aleppo, with both sides suffering high casualties. Rebel commanders said their main aim was to capture the city center. Rebels seized a strategic checkpoint in the town of Anadan north of Aleppo, gaining a direct route between the city and the Turkish border, an important rebel supply base. They also captured Al-Bab, northeast of the city with an army base. Later, rebels attacked the Minakh air base, 30 km northwest of Aleppo, with arms and tanks captured at the Anadan checkpoint. Opposition forces continued to make territorial gains in the city, controlling most of eastern and southwestern Aleppo, including Salaheddine and parts of Hamdaniyeh. They continued to target security centers and police stations, as clashes erupted near the Air Force intelligence headquarters in Aleppo's northwestern Zahraa district. Rebels overran several police stations and posts in the central and southern districts of Bab al-Nerab, Al-Miersa, and Salhain, seizing significant amounts of arms and ammunition.
The Syrian military continued its attempt to capture Salaheddine, while bombing rebel-held territories throughout the city. Ambushes and executions were common. The Army appeared to have made little effort in sending ground forces to recapture the central and southern districts. The loyalist al-Barre militia began to clash with rebel forces in southern Aleppo and near the city's southeastern international airport. Clashes between the tribesmen and the rebels escalated after Zino Berri's execution.
From 3 to 5 August 2012, the rebel offensive began to stall. The Syrian Army finished deploying 20,000 reinforcements. Rebels retreated after failed attempts to capture Minagh airbase and the state TV station in Izaa district, a few blocks northeast of Salahaddine.
On 6 August, a rebel commander was killed in Salahaddine. The media center of the Taweed brigade, located in Sakhour district, was destroyed by an airstrike. Rebels attacked a checkpoint near Aleppo University. Fighting erupted near the presidential palace and government forces shelled rebel positions at the Palace of Justice and in Marjeh and Sha'ar (Terbet Lala) districts.
On 7 August, the ancient citadel in the city center was under siege by rebels who controlled the ground on at least two sides. The FSA had reportedly advanced to the Bab Jnēn and Sabaa Bahrat districts amidst fierce clashes. In the north, rebels attempted to advance into a Kurdish district, clashing with Kurdish fighters. Jets bombed the area, forcing rebel forces to retreat. Opposition activists confirmed that Aleppo was completely surrounded by government troops.
Armored units inched forward on Salahaddine from the south and west. Military snipers deployed on rooftops and tanks were stationed in the streets. Snipers were also positioned in the local roundabout where they prevented rebel reinforcements and supplies from entering the district.
Rebel withdrawal from Salaheddine
On the morning of 8 August 2012, the Syrian military launched an offensive to retake Salaheddine, a rebel stronghold that an important southern supply route. The military hoped to link up with troops at the Aleppo Citadel. Rebel fighters were reportedly low on ammunition and exhausted. After intense fighting and shelling in the district throughout the day, half a dozen Army tanks breached the center. In the early morning of the next day, artillery shelling intensified as more tanks moved in. FSA units began to depart. By mid-morning, hundreds of rebel fighters were pulling out of the district, with some leaving the city. Fearing a continued Army advance, some rebel units in nearby Saif al-Dawla and Bustan al-Qasar, districts east of Salaheddine, also began to evacuate. The withdrawal occurred while the city remained relatively quiet, as government forces made little attempt to advance. During the evening of 9 August, troops and armored vehicles, accompanied by the Mukhabarat and the Shabiha, moved into the neighborhood, searching house to house for remaining rebels, as snipers began setting up positions.
Fighting continued in the central district of Bab al-Hadid and the southeast district of Bab al-Nairab. Rebel fighters made attempts to recapture Salaheddine, but were held back by snipers and mortar fire.
Army attack on Saif al-Dawla
On 12 August 2012, tanks advanced to the roundabout in Salaheddine which was defended by 150 rebels. During the day, rebels attacked a petrol station in Salaheddine, which was being used as a military base, and killed the base's commander and captured badly needed ammunition and weapons.
On 13 August, the Army launched advanced into the western portion of the Saif al-Dawla district. Security sources in Damascus also stated that the Army was advancing on the rebel-held district of Sukari. The Observatory said opposition fighters attacked a key air force intelligence branch in the western Zahraa district. Rebels again attacked the radio and television station in Aleppo.
Video footage showed rebels shooting down a MiG-23BN fighter and executions of prisoners in and around Aleppo by rebel forces. Opposition activists claimed that rebels had nothing to do with the killings.
On 15 August, rebels reported that they captured Bab al-Nasr and the surrounding area, forcing soldiers to retreat to the city centre.
On 17 August, heavy fighting was reported at Aleppo International Airport, a strategic gateway to the city. According to SANA, rebels were "pushed out from areas on both sides of the airport".
On 18 August, Army clearing operations were reported in the areas of al-Andalus school, al-Hayat Hospital, Rahmo Khatab school, al-Hamiyat Hospital and Ahmad Saeed school. The army claimed to have taken the area of Maysaloun Hospital. On 20 August, the Japanese TV reporter Mika Yamamoto was killed, the first in Aleppo. On 21 August, both sides claimed advances, although neither could be independently verified.
On 22 August, rebels tried to make an advance in Saif al-Dawla, but their attack was repelled by heavy mortar and RPG fire. Government forces shelled Aleppo and two neighbouring towns. The army bombarded rebel weapon stocks to keep them out of the city, according to a security official. He also said reinforcements for both sides were heading to Aleppo.
Clashes in Christian districts
On 23 August 2012, the military reportedly captured three Christian neighborhoods in the Old City, according to residents contacted by AFP. The districts of Jdeide, Tela and Sulaimaniyeh had been captured by opposition forces five days before. One resident claimed the Army was celebrated by hundreds of residents, who set up committees to avoid a potential return of the rebels. The main rebel commander had, earlier in the day, claimed that rebel fighters were near the districts. The military capture was later confirmed by AFP. The capture of the Jdeide quarter was initiated by the residents, who took up arms after the rebels set up checkpoints and fired on churches and residents. They stormed the square where most rebels were positioned and took control of it. The Army later joined the Christian militia to expel the rebels from the quarter.
CBS News learned that at least 48 of Aleppo's elite businessmen, calling themselves the "Front of Aleppo Islamic Scholars" (FAIS), hand-picked a provisional city council to take over as Aleppo's new local government. The 48 businessmen were financiers for the Syrian government, who thereby switched sides to the rebels.
War of attrition
Rebels tried to stop government tanks that were advancing from Saif al-Dawla. The Army was also moving in the Sukari district and rebel fighters complained of RPG shortages.
Reports indicated that the Syrian government was indiscriminately attacking civilians at bakeries with artillery rounds and rockets in opposition-controlled areas. Human Rights Watch labeled these as war crimes, as the only military targets were rebels manning the bakeries and that dozens of civilians were killed.
On 31 August, rebel fighters announced a major offensive, attacking security compounds and bases. Activists claimed that three warplanes were destroyed when rebels attacked Kwers military airport. The warplanes and artillery continued to fire on rebel positions. SOHR reported that the fighting happened in Sukari, Hanano and Bustan Al Qasr.
On 3 September, a Syrian general said that the Army controlled the upper area of Saif al-Dawla and that they were trying to take the whole district. AFP reporters visited Salaheddine and confirmed that it was under Army control. AFP reported that the Army had captured, two days before, two 10-story malls on either side of the main street in Saif al-Dawla, which had been used by rebel snipers.
On 6 September, Kurdish activists reported that 21 civilians were killed in the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maksud when the Army shelled the local mosque and nearby areas. Despite not directly witnessing clashes, residents believed that the attack was in retaliation for locals sheltering anti-government civilians from other districts. The Kurdish Supreme Committee and Popular Protection Units vowed retaliation.
Hanano and Midan fighting
On 7 September 2012, rebels attacked the Hanano military base. The FSA managed to free 350 detainees when they overran one of the main security buildings. Those wishing to defect were sent to various fighter positions in the region, while others remained in detention. Several brigades were assigned to the attack. The rebels tried to cut strategic supply lines and silence the artillery. The Army retook the base the next day, after a 20-hour battle with heavy casualties on both sides. The base served as a weapons storage depot, a conscript recruitment centre and housed the headquarters of the local branch of the military police and anti-riot police. According to SOHR, rebels stormed the area reserved for conscript recruitment.
On 8 September, SOHR reported that the Syrian Army advanced in Sa'ad al-Ansari (Iza'a), Saif al-Dawla and Salaheddine, following the withdrawal of rebel forces after heavy shelling. 21 Kurdish civilians were killed in the Sheikh Maksud neighborhood when Army forces shelled an area near the Marouf mosque, according to Kurdish activists.
Aleppo's main water pump was destroyed during the day. The Syrian government and opposition accused the other of the destruction.
On 9 September, a car bomb killed at least 30 civilians and wounded more than 64. The Governor of Aleppo said that the bombing took place near al-Hayat Hospital and the Central Hospital. The bombing caused significant material damage to the two hospitals, al-Nusour al-Zahabiya elementary school and nearby buildings. The next day the FSA took responsibility for the attack, claiming that the facilities were used by government troops. The attack was executed after the Air Force bombed rebel targets in Hanano, killing dozens.
During the day, another car bomb exploded near Qutaybah Bin Muslim al-Bahili school in al-Shuhada'a neighbourhood. The bomb killed three civilians and injured six.
On 10 September, A three-day rebel assault on the Midan district was defeated and government forces pushed the rebels toward Bostan Pasha. At the same time, at least 20 Syrian soldiers were executed by the rebels after they had been captured at the Hanano barracks. The executors were members of the Hawks of Syria.
On 11 September, SANA reported the Army confiscated 38,000 litres of oil that was supposed to be smuggled out near al-Barkoum Bridge.
Over the night of 11–12 September, the Army pounded rebel positions, focusing on the southern districts of Bustan al-Qasr, Sukari and Kellaseh and the northeastern districts of Sakhour, Sha'ar and Hanano. One resident said that helicopter gunships strafed the rebel district of Bostan Pasha. Fighting took place at dawn 12 September in Al-Nayrab area, five kilometres north of the airport in response to a rebel attack on the airport; the airport remained fully operational.
On 13 September, SOHR reported that 11 people were killed in an airstrike by warplanes in the Helweniyeh neighbourhood.
Rebel fighters reportedly advanced into Midan, a highly strategic area that opens the way into the main square. One resident said that "They were at Bostan Pasha (district) and had already advanced up to Suleyman al-Halabi Street. Now they have entered a street in Midan," after heavy clashes were reported.
The fighting in Midan continued into the next day, centering around two police stations. The rebels captured the stations, were driven out by the military, returned in a counter-attack, and were attacked again. SANA claimed that the Army had cleared areas around the Hreitani building, Sports Institute and the Maternity Hospital. The rebels turned St Gregory Church into a battlefield when they tried to progress in Midan, before being forced back by heavy Army resistance.
During the night, it was reported that the Army conducted air-strikes on the two police stations, forcing the rebels to retreat. An air-strike was also conducted against a rebel-held police station in Hanano. A unit of the Republican guard seized the Ansar Mosque in the rebel-controlled Arqoub district, which was strategically positioned in front of the Hanano military base.
On 15 September, the Army controlled most of al-Midan and set up checkpoints for the first time. Rebels still held some positions on the border between Midan and the rebel-held Bostan Pasha and Arqoub districts. Clashes continued at the entrance of Bostan Pasha and another air-strike hit the police post in Hanano. Beside fightings in al-Midan, SANA reported that the Army had clashed with rebels in al-Firdous and al-Midan.
On 16 September, rebel fighters made another attempt to push back into al-Midan. They fired RPGs through a wall encircling an Armenian Orthodox church from their stronghold in Suleiman al-Halabi Street. They then rushed the courtyard of the church but were driven back. Later, the military announced that the armed forces had completely cleared the al-Midan area and taken control of the district. This was confirmed by an AFP correspondent on the ground, although he said that there were a few areas where snipers were still active. The military advanced into the rebel-held Arkoub district. Members of the Republican Guards attacked and captured the Ansar mosque. The mosque had strategic importance, located directly in front of the Hanano military base.
The rebels in Aleppo, due to a lack of foreign supplies, were manufacturing their own weapons. The rebels denied receiving any foreign support in the form of weapons. A rebel commander named Abdelkader el-Hadji stated "The weapons we have now we captured from Assad's army. We now have a few tanks. Where do you think we got them? We took them from Assad."
On 20 September, the Syrian Army launched an operation to recapture Bustan al-Qasr. Killings occurred near al-Fidaa al-Arabi school. SANA said that other clashes occurred in Hanano, al-Fatayes quarter in al-Jadideh and al-Arqoub area and Qadi Askar roundabout. SANA said "heavy losses" were inflicted upon the rebels. Government troops engaged in street battles in the rebel-held Suleiman al-Halabi district, adjacent to al-Midan.
Opposition forces attempted to unite the two largest rebel groups in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside under one command, so they could better coordinate. Analysts claimed that the stalemate was due to the Army's low morale and an inability to reinforce and resupply troops from Damascus via the highway. The government discussed the use of chemical weapons as a last resort, and Der Spiegel reported that the Syrian government had restarted chemical weapons tests in nearby Safira at the end of August. Aleppo activists reported 37 civilians killed within Aleppo city from the Army's overnight bombardment.
Over the night of 20/21 September, fighting erupted near the Hanano military base, SOHR said. Bustan al-Qasr was still under attack after the Army attempted to recapture it. The Army also attacked Shakour during the day. Clashes were reported in Shakour roundabout where dozens of rebels had been killed, SANA said.
On 22 September, SANA said that the Army had recaptured the Third Industrial Institute in Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood and destroyed several rebel centres. The fighting for Suleimal al-Halabi had started two days before. The next day, the Syrian army had recaptured Qasr al-Wali restaurant in al-Sayyid Ali which was used as a rebel operations centre, according to SANA.
On 24 September, SANA said the Syrian Army took the Agricultural Institute and areas of al-Quran Mosque and Ali Nasser Agha School in Suleiman al-Halabi. SANA claimed that the Syrian army also recaptured the Christian al-Jdeideh neighbourhood.
On 25 September, an Army source told AFP that the Army's operations in Arkoub were finished and that the Army was involved in a door-to-door search for rebels. However, SOHR said that clashes were ongoing in Arkoub. SANA also reported continuing clashes in Suleiman al-Halabi and that clashes occurred in the Western al-Sakhour area and near al-Hakim Hospital in al-Shaar area.
AFP reported on a meeting of rebel brigade commanders, at which the overall assessment of the situation was that they were in a stalemate due to a lack of ammunition, despite the capture of 5,000 assault rifles and 2,500 rocket launchers during the earlier raid on the Hanano military base.
September rebel offensive
According to multiple sources, a new opposition offensive began on 27 September 2012, which promised to be "zero hour" in the start of a "decisive battle" to capture the city. A rebel commander said they wanted to surprise the Army, which had started to creep forward towards the southern neighborhoods. He claimed the Tawhid brigade was enticing the Army forward. The operation included 6,000 fighters of the Tawhid brigade, in addition to brigades such as al-Fatah and Ahfad al-Fatiheen for the Turkmen. Weapons and ammunition captured during the attack on the Hananou base were used. He denied that the FSA had proclaimed "decisive" battles for Aleppo before.
The government texted most of the mobile/cellphones in the area that read in part: "You have two choices; either be killed facing the State or the State will kill you to get rid of you, you decide...the game is over...the countdown has begun to expel all militants from neighboring countries..." The message was sent to all Syrians with subscriptions to the country's two cellphone service providers in the Aleppo area.
On the second day of the offensive, there was a growing threat of clashes between the rebels and a Kurdish militia believed to be linked to the PKK. The rebels, who grew suspicious over some Kurdish militants' ties with the government, also threatened to confront groups they said were linked to the PKK in neighboring Turkey. Tawhid Brigade commander Abdelqadir al-Saleh, requested that the Kurdish militia surrender and "not drag themselves into a losing battle that is not their fight." Shortly thereafter, rebels attempted to advance into the Kurdish-held Sheikh Maqsoud district in the north, where they reported capturing eight Shabbiha militiamen. Opposition activists and rebels reported that the Kurdish militia engaged the rebels and fought alongside government troops against the rebel forces in Sheikh Maqsoud. SANA said that district residents were fighting alongside the Syrian army against the rebel offensive.
Fighting was reported in central and southern parts of the city. The main points of the rebel attack close to the center were towards the government-held Hamidiya and al-Midan districts. Residents in previously peaceful neighborhoods told AFP that the violence was "unprecedented", saying "The sound from the fighting has been non-stop," "Everyone is terrified. I have never heard anything like this before." In the south, rebels advanced through the Izaa, Saif al-Dawla and Sukari districts. Rebel commander Abu Furat said that during the fighting a regular army base was taken in Salaheddine and 25 soldiers were killed before they were forced to retreat. According to one rebel, 20 of their fighters were killed and 60 wounded during the fighting. FSA forces also reportedly suffered heavy losses in the Bdama neighborhood, where a rebel battalion's first lieutenant was killed. Rebels reported that one of their units was surrounded during the clashes, while some other battalions pulled out of the frontline or had never joined the battle.
The leader of the Sham Falcon's brigade claimed the rebel fighters were able to progress in al-Arqoub, Maysaloon, Abdulla al-Jaberi square, Hamdaniya and Jamiliya. He said that the Syrian army was using planes and barrels of explosives, and "there were ferocious battles in Salehaden and al-Ameriya and al-Sukari. It is a guerrilla war. The Syrian army would come forward 10 metres, we would move forward 50 metres and then if we need to pull back, we pull back." SOHR's Abdel Rahman said, "Neither the regime nor the rebels are able to gain a decisive advantage."
Rebels claimed to have stormed a government radio station, while government war planes bombed the city's outskirts. A major fire engulfed Aleppo's medieval markets, destroying an estimated 700 to 1,000 shops. A major tourist attraction, the covered markets were among the largest in the Middle East. The rebels blamed the fire on army shelling. According to SANA, clashes took place in al Kalisah, al Firdous, Bab al-Nairab, Bab al-Hadid and Bustan al-Qasr. According to the Irish Times, the rebel offensive had dissolved in a street fight after the Army tenaciously defended its positions. Irish Times and Reuters reported that some rebels units were surrounded and others retreated even before entering the city. According to SANA, the Army was in full control of al-Amiriyah and most of Tal az-Zarazir streets. SOHR said that clashes were taking place in al-Arqoub and Aziziya, while Salaheddine had once again become a focal point.
On the third day of the offensive, an activist claimed to CNN that rebels had taken control of at least four neighbourhoods and rebels were reported to have fired mortars at al-Nayrab Military Airport, damaging two helicopters and a main runway. The Syrian government denied that helicopters were destroyed, claiming that those reports were an attempt to raise rebel morale. According to Sana, the Army targeted positions and inflicted losses near the Infirmary and the Sport Institute in Bustan al-Basha and near the Cotton Gins area, east and north of al-Jandoul. Another operation is mentioned near the crossroads of Baleh town, west of Aleppo, with rebel casualties. SANA also said clashes occurred in Qastal Harami, al-Sayyed Ali and Maysaloun Hospital areas. A Turkish fighter, who led an armed rebel unit and its members was reported dead in clashes with the army in al-Tananeer Square.
Opposition fighters from the Tawhid brigade and other northern brigades announced that they had partially taken over the Jandoul roundabout in Aleppo. Fighters also said 15 government soldiers were killed and three tanks were destroyed.
However, overall, the rebel offensive had stalled and opposition fighters were struggling to hold on to their positions under heavy artillery fire. One rebel described the current situation as 'boring' with the battle becoming yet another stalemate. Rebels blamed the stalemate on their low ammunition and inferior firepower.
Aleppo Square bombings, Old City and Eastern Aleppo fighting
On 1 October 2012, SOHR said that more than 40 were either killed or injured by bombs in the Karm al-Jabal neighborhood in the al-Sha'ar area. Several neighborhoods were bombed including Shakur and Salaheddine. The next day, rebels claimed to have repulsed attacks in Hanano, and that they were in control of most of the Old City in the face of heavy artillery fire. The rebels appeared to be moving towards the city center.
The pro-government Lebanese Al-Diyar newspaper announced that Assad had flown to Aleppo by helicopter at dawn and had ordered 30,000 additional government troops and 2,000 personnel carriers from Hama province (army units 5 and 6). SANA made no mention of any visit.
On 3 October, three suicide car bombs exploded at the eastern corner of the central Saadallah Al-Jabiri Square killing 34. More than 122 people were reported to be heavily injured. Islamist militant group Jabhat Al-Nusra claimed responsibility. The bombs targeted the Officers' club and the nearby buildings of the Touristic Hotel and the historic Jouha Café. The hotel received major damage while the café was entirely destroyed. A small building within the Officers' club was ruined as well.
Government troops killed two more would-be suicide bombers before they could detonate their explosives. Syrian state TV showed the bodies of three men wearing army uniforms at the bomb site. One of them appeared to be wearing an explosive belt with a timer tied to his wrist. Later, al-Qaeda-linked extremist militant group the Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility. The group stated that it was carried out by suicide car bombers, followed by attackers disguised as Army soldiers. The UN Security Council unanimously condemned the bombings as a "terrorist attack".
Rebel fighters attacked a political intelligence branch as well as an old vegetable market where a large number of troops were posted, according to the Observatory. Overnight, rebels reportedly destroyed two tanks in the city. The Army battled rebels in several neighbourhoods, including Saif al-Dawla and Sakhur. It also shelled the Bab al-Nayrab, Salaheddine, Mashhad, Bab al-Nasr and Sakhur districts. The fighting led to the destruction of an Army tank and the killing of several Army troops.
On 5 October, state-run Syrian TV said that government forces "cleansed Sakhour of terrorists and mercenaries." After days of fighting, an AP correspondent said that the rebels lost control of several buildings in Saif al-Dawla, after close-quarter combat.
Meanwhile rebel fighters claimed to have made advances in the strategic district of Salaheddine, claiming that they had taken the square, lost it and then retaken it after a lengthy battle.
An AFP correspondent reported intense street battles in Arkoub district. The insurgents had occupied health facilities and schools as makeshift bases. There were signs of strain from troops, with one officer admitting "the battle for Arkoub is as tough as the struggle for Hanano" last month. One soldier said he had not returned home once, to Homs, in three months. The neighborhoods of Bustan al-Qasr, al-Helk and al-Haydariya were bombed by Army forces.
On 6 October, Syrian state television said that four Turks were among a group of foreign fighters that the army had killed there. Iranian Press TV claimed that the Army had captured the Shakour district, but the FSA said they repulsed the assault after heavy clashes.
An AFP correspondent said that the Syrian Air Force was continuously bombing the Bab al-Hadid, Arkub and Shaar neighborhoods that surrounded the besieged Hanano barracks. Locals called it the worst fighting since the battle began. The BBC found a cache of ammunition manufactured in Ukraine and addressed to the Saudi Arabian Army. The ammunition was stored in a mosque used by the rebels. Saudi and Qatari were suspected of supplying ammunition to the rebels but not heavier weapons, such as anti-aircraft missiles, due to American concerns about extremists obtaining such equipment.
On 9 October, rebels claimed control of the strategic town of Maarrat al-Nu'man, a town on the Aleppo/Damascus highway from where many of the Army's reinforcements were joining the battle. Seizing the town was believed to be part of a campaign to isolate the Army.
On 10 October, rebels launched an attack against the Great Mosque of Aleppo where government forces were based. During four hours of fighting rebels tried to blast holes in the walls of the mosque with RPGs before storming the site but were repelled, leaving rebel snipers to attack the government forces. They had launched an earlier attack against the mosque on 8 October but government forces in the Citadel thwarted them.
The government bombarded the districts of Haidariyeh, Sukari and Fardoss at dawn, as fierce fighting broke out in Sakhur, Suleiman al-Halabi and Sheikh Khodr. One hospital in a rebel area admitted 100 patients a day with less than 10 doctors. Veterinarians were used in some cases given a shortage of human doctors.
On 12 October, rebel forces seized an air defense base east of the city, near al-Tana village and Koris military airport. After the capture, government air-strikes destroyed most of the rockets and radars at the base. By the end of the day, the rebels were preparing to withdraw, fearing more strikes.
On 13 October, a large explosion struck the Air Force Intelligence Directorate office followed by heavy clashes. The Directorate is considered important given Assad's role as commander of the Syrian Air Force in the 1960s. Rebels also broke into the Umayyad Mosque by using an explosive charge to attack government forces stationed there.
On 14 October, the Umayyad Mosque was set on fire after Army forces withdrew from it the previous day. Rebels destroyed the southern entrance to get direct access into the internal yard. Later, it was confirmed that the Army's counter-attack recaptured the mosque. The mosque sustained the most damage since an 1822 earthquake struck.
October rebel offensive, Kurdish-Rebel fighting
On 25 October 2012, some 200 rebels moved into Ashrafiyeh district in the Kurdish-controlled area of Sheikh Maqsud. It was the first time that substantial government or rebel forces moved into Kurdish areas. The area had been regarded as neutral with Kurdish militia clashing with both rebel and army units. The rebel unit responsible was allegedly the Liwa al-Tawhid brigade who reportedly told the locals that We are here to spend Eid with you. Ashrafiyeh is important as a part of the city heights and controls routes between the north and south of Aleppo. Previous rebel attempts to move into the district had been repelled. Rebels were reported to have taken control of the Syriac quarter.
Analyst Joshua Landis said that according to reports he had received, the Syrian army had retreated from the Aleppo center, allowing the FSA to control the central Christian neighborhoods of Jedida and Qadime. The claims were unverified due to a lack of reporters on the ground. Locals from the Armenian district of Al-Zukur said that the FSA had entered their district leading to clashes.
An aide to colonel Riad al-Asaad confirmed the reports of the FSA's recent advances and claimed that the rebels captured the Salaheddine district. The spokesman of the Liwaa al Shabhah brigade claimed that the FSA had limited the Syrian army to five districts. It was unclear whether the rebels had the strength to hold the new areas and there were indications that the rebels had been forced out of some areas by late afternoon, with one resident saying that the government forces were fighting fiercely.
One FSA fighter told the Guardian that their main focus was on security branches the Syrian army used as bases. He said that rebels were in the process of besieging the Midan security branch and stopped Army reinforcements from getting to the police school in Khan al-Assal district which had been under FSA siege for 10 days. The fighter claimed that the Ashrafiya take-over by the rebels was the result of a deal with the PKK.
SANA said that the Army had recaptured the Syrian-French Hospital and reported several clashes stating that the Army had inflicted "heavy losses" upon the rebels. Some rebels believe that the increased talk of a truce from the Syrian government was an effort to stop rebel gains and to use the four days of Eid to reinforce their forces.
Later, a rebel commander claimed that the FSA were fighting in Arqoub, Siryan, Zahra and Firqan districts and had secured Suleiman al Halabi. Local activists claimed fierce clashes were occurring around the Airport and that rebels were trying to besiege the Nairab base just south of the city. The center of Aleppo was reported to be in rebel hands with snipers in positions to block counterattacks. The retreat from the city center was seen as either a government trap or signs that the rebel tactic of attacking the government's supply lines was working. Another question was whether the government was prepared to bomb Christian and Kurdish areas, like other rebel-held areas in the past, and risk dragging them into the rebel camp. Rebels who had taken the predominately Christian areas and Jdeidah, where Lawrence of Arabia once stayed, reported intimidation by the rebels who feared retaliation from both sides in the conflict. The rebels also claimed to have had encircled the Citadel of Aleppo.
Rebel activists claimed that Kurdish forces had either reached agreement with rebels to allow their rapid advance or assisted the rebels by simply leaving their checkpoints overnight. One rebel spokesman claimed that Kurdish forces might join the Free Syrian Army.
It was reported that government tanks moved into Faisal street, the main thoroughfare running the length of the Christian districts of al-Jadide and Qadime, forcing the rebels to make a tactical retreat back into the Kurdish Ashrafiyya district. The tanks positioned themselves at Ashrafiyeh district the next day, leading some to fear the possibility of the district being shelled, although the tanks did not open fire. However, Kurdish activists claimed that army howitzers shelled Ashrafiyya, leaving 15 people dead including 8 Kurds. Two journalists were among the 15 wounded in the attack. Kurdish activists also accused the Syrian Government of shelling Kurdish buses that were coming from Erfin to Aleppo earlier in the month, causing 15 deaths and 19 injuries.
On 26 October, the Syrian authorities accused rebels of breaking the Eid truce. SANA said that rebels opened fire on the Army in several places while the Army responded with fire as well inflicting "heavy losses" upon the rebels. Mid-day, rebels tried to overrun a checkpoint near the Mohasab army base in the northeast Seryan district. Meanwhile, AFP reported that the Syrian army was guarding the entrance to the Old City. It was also reported that government troops had expelled rebels from the Armenian area of Al-Zukur.
Rebels clashed with Kurdish militias that tried to stop them entering the Sheikh Maqsud neighourhood. 19 rebels and 5 Kurdish fighters were killed. One Kurdish leader said that they had "a gentlemen's agreement" with the rebels that they would not enter Kurdish areas and that the rebels had violated it when they entered Ashrafiyeh. According to a report by activists who organised a Kurdish protest at a PYD militant checkpoint between the Kurdish areas of Ashrafiyeh and al-Sheikh Maqsoud, rebel fighters opened fire on the protesters, leaving eight dead and five wounded. Overall, PYD stated that 10 Kurds were killed during the clashes, including three fighters. SOHR put the Kurdish toll at 11, for a total of 30 dead, when including the 19 rebels. 200 people were kidnapped or captured as a result of the fighting. The PYD captured 20 rebel fighters, while the rebels detained 180 Kurds, civilians and fighters. SOHR said that the PYD was still in control of the Ashrafiyeh neighbourhood. A later PYD statement blamed both the Army and the FSA for the violence. "We have chosen to remain neutral, and we will not take sides in a war that will only bring suffering and destruction to our country," the statement said. The rebels said that the clashes started after their forces attacked a security compound in Ashrafieh, which was defended by both PKK fighters and government troops. A new report, several days later, put the combatant death toll at 30 rebels and 15 PYD fighters.
On 27 October, SANA said that the rebels attacked the water pumping station in Sleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood cutting water from the western part of the city. Rebels were accused of kidnapping Lebanese TV journalist Fidaa Itani because his coverage was considered "not suitable" for "the Syrian revolution and revolutionaries". He was later freed by the rebels and left for Turkey.
Rebels fanning out West of Aleppo were besieging the Zahra air intelligence base and came under fire from the Ramoussa artillery base which they assaulted from the south. A rebel spokesperson claimed tht the Zahra and Ramoussa bases were crucial for the regimes defenses given their lack of manpower.
In a new round of clashes in the Kurdish areas, rebels opened fire on Kurdish protesters, killing three of them.
The battle for the Zahra air intelligence base was complicated by the possible presence of civilian prisoners.
Rebel capture of bases and fighting in West
On 1 November 2012, a bakery was bombed in Atareb killing at least 12 people. The bakery was important since it delivered bread to 40 towns near Aleppo. The government bombed three other bakeries in and around Aleppo at Kafar Hamra, Ramoon and Qadi Askar. These bakeries were responsible for most of the bread in the area.
On 2 November, SOHR incorrectly reported the execution of Shah Ali Abdu, also known as Nujin Derik, the Kurdish militia leader for Aleppo, whom the rebels captured while she was on a mission to return the bodies of rebel fighters killed during the clashes between the FSA and the Kurdish militia. She commanded a unit responsible for protecting the Kurdish districts of Ashrafiyeh and Sheikh Maqsud. The report later proved to be false.
On 5 November, clashes occurred at a roundabout in Zahraa district, near the city's northwest entrance, and on the road to the airport. In Zahraa a fire started in a building close to air force intelligence branch. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent reported that a fire had burnt down its main warehouse, destroying supplies needed for the upcoming winter. Fighting was reported near the airport.
On 11 November, fighting was reported for the first time in the northwest Liramun neighbourhood. SANA claimed that the Syrian army took Al-Sheikh Saeed Area. During the day, the Army pounded rebel positions in the northern area. Rebels began using 'barrel bombs' similar to those dropped on rebel areas by the Air Force in an attack on an army position in Karem Jabal district. They rolled through the sewers underneath the guardpost before being detonated.
On 17 November, a car bomb exploded in Liramun. The Syrian Army and the rebels continued to fight in the northwest.
On 18 November, rebels stormed the home base of the 46th Regiment in nearby Urum al-Sughra, securing the base the following day in a key strategic victory following a two-month siege. The fall of Base 46 has further isolated government troops fighting in Aleppo as well as in Idlib Province while simultaneously providing the rebels with secure supply routes from the Turkish border and much-needed ammunition and heavy weaponry. The nearby army base at Sheikh Suleiman remained in government hands, though rebel forces had stepped up their attacks on it in the aftermath of Base 46's capture.
On 22 November, a building next to a major Aleppo hospital was targeted by an airstrike that killed at least 15 people according to the SOHR, including at least 11 rebels, a doctor and three children. The Dar al-Shifa hospital was a private clinic before it was turned into a field hospital by opposition forces. It has been targeted at least six times in recent months, mainly affecting the upper floors of the seven-story high building. Only 400–500 yards from the front line it is in a heavily shelled area and one of the few remaining medical clinics for residents in Aleppo.
On 24 November, SOHR said that clashes broke out between the rebels and the Syrian army at the Air Force Intelligence building near Shekhan square and Bani Zid neighbourhood.
On 26 November, rebels claimed to control most of the roads to Aleppo, leaving the Damascus-Aleppo highway as the only supply route to government forces in the city.
On 27 November, rebels shot down a Syrian military helicopter on the outskirts of Aleppo using a surface-to-air missile.
On 28 November, the situation in the city's centre was calm with shootings and explosions being heard in the Armenian New Village neighbourhood.
It was reported in December that the Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood had been shelled, while the clashes were ongoing on the airport road. On 3 December, clashes were reported in Midan and the nearby Suleiman al-Halabi districts, while government forces shelled villages near the Ground Forces Academy. Activists reported that five bodies had been found in al-Soufayra. However, fierce combat soon broke out within Bustan al-Basha district, held by the Islamist al-Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham groups, according to a military source. The Syrian Army advanced from Midan, taking control of the main avenue and reaching Zahi Hospital in Halak neighbourhood. Islamists continued to hold the side streets and fighting was ongoing.
Sheikh Suleiman base was overrun by opposition forces on 10 December. A hundred Army soldiers who were left inside the base retreated to the scientific building wearing gas masks. Al-Nusra Front led the attack with only one FSA group taking part, one FSA commander said. Many of the fighters were from Central Asia with the rebel commander coming from Uzbekistan.
On 15 December, Colonel Yusef al-Jader, army officer and defector and top rebel commander for the Tawhid Brigade, was killed in action during an assault on the military academy located near Muslimiyeh, just north of Aleppo. Al-Jader, also known as Abu Furat, was said to be suspicious of the growing jihadist presence in the war and sought to "keep Jabhat al-Nusra at bay". SOHR reported that rebels had captured large parts of the academy, while Republican Guard troops were deployed by helicopter to the base in a counterattack. Opposition forces eventually took control of the academy, a campus of around 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi). At least 24 rebels and 20 government soldiers were killed in the fighting. The remaining government troops withdrew from the base and regrouped near the prison at Muslimiyeh and the al-Kindi Hospital in the Palestinian refugee neighbourhood of Handarat, which had been captured from the rebels on 14 December. However, they remained encircled by opposition forces.
Aleppo perimeter battles
Beginning in late 2012, fighting intensified around the area of the airport. The al-Nusra Front unilaterally declared a no-fly zone in December and threatened to shoot down commercial aircraft, alleging that the government was using them to transport loyalist troops and military supplies. After multiple attacks on Aleppo International Airport, all flights were suspended on 1 January 2013. Rebels attacked loyalist troops at the airport perimeter, including the nearby Brigade 80. By mid-February, at least 150 people had died in this fighting.
Rebel troops attacked Menagh air base. On 30 December, government planes bombed rebel positions after the rebels entered the perimeter. On 14 January rebels had totally surrounded the base. Rebel troops stormed the base on 9 February, prompting retaliatory airstrikes. On 11 February, rebels stormed and took control of Jirah airbase, killing or capturing 40 soldiers. It was reported that rebels were in control of some operational Czech-built Aero L-39 Albatros jets.
The rebel offensive on the Old City continued in early 2013. On 12 January, SANA claimed that army units had secured the areas surrounding the historic Umayyad Mosque, the Citadel and the Justice Palace near the Old City. However, by late February rebels had re-captured the mosque after days of heavy fighting, as government forces retreated to nearby buildings. Clashes continued afterward around the mosque.
On 15 January, twin blasts occurred at University of Aleppo during the first day of mid-terms, killing at least 87 and wounding more than 150, among them students and civilians. The University dormitories are used by reguees. Activists blamed government warplanes while the government blamed "terrorists". The Syrian government representative to the UN stated that 162 had been wounded. In the wake of the bombing, the Russian consulate in Aleppo temporary closed.
Belgian-born French journalist Yves Debay was killed during fighting on 18 January. Syrian State Media reported that rebels fired rockets at a building in the government-controlled Muhafaza Sakaniya neighbourhood, a claim that rebels denied.
On 22 February, rebels alleged that three "Scud-type missiles" landed in the Hamra, Tariq al Bab and Hanano neighbourhoods with 29 confirmed dead and 150 wounded. SOHR later updated the toll, alleging that Scud missile strikes left 58 dead, including 35 children.
On 29 January, the bodies of approximately 110 men and boys, most with bound hands and shot in the head were found on the banks of the Queiq River in the western district of Bustan al-Qasr, controlled by rebels. The victims were believed to have been detained, executed and dumped by government forces into the river over a period of several weeks. The bodies floated downstream from a government held portion of the river into a rebel area in Bustan al-Qasr. The bodies only became apparent when winter high water resided in late January. In February, a grate was placed over the river in rebel held territory to help catch other bodies floating down. Between February and mid-March, more than 80 additional bodies were dragged from the river. The continual appearance of these bodies the Queiq River to be referred to as "The River of Martyrs" by locals.
On 31 January, government warplanes bombed the Kurdish neighbourhood of Ashrafiyeh, controlled by the Popular Protection Units (YPG), killing at least twenty civilians and injuring 40. Sheikh Maqsoud was also reportedly shelled. Several days prior, on 28 January, a government tank reportedly fired a shell into the Kurdish sector of the city, killing one child and wounding two women.
In early January 2013, rebels laid siege to the strategic Police Academy in Khan al-Assal on the western outskirts, which was used by the government to shell nearby areas. On 24 February rebels used captured tanks to breach the walls and storm the Police Academy. Rebels took control of several buildings. Fierce clashes reportedly continued thereafter. SOHR stated on 3 March that 120 soldiers and 80 rebels were killed that week there. On 4 March rebels fully took over the police academy. They reported that about 45 government soldiers were killed, possibly executed, by rebels after they stormed the academy.
On 2 February, Sheikh Saeed district residents confirmed that rebels had taken control of the district after the Army withdrew, allowing the rebels to secure a key route to Aleppo International Airport. Sheikh Said was the last land route between Aleppo and Nayrab airport. Many of the neighbourhood's residents, who were largely loyal to the government, fled when the army retreated.
On 1 March, government forces retook Tel Shghaib village, located southeast of Aleppo. The following day, Army forces seized a road to the besieged airport, creating a new supply route for government forces advancing from Hama.
During March, an eight-day rebel offensive in an attempt to capture the village of Khan al-Assal on the western outskirts of the city was repelled. 200 fighters on both sides were killed in the offensive, including 120 government and 80 rebel fighters. Among government forces killed were 115 policemen, who the government alleged were executed by the opposition after capturing a police academy in Khan al-Assal.
On 15 March, rebels seized control of an ammunition factory complex and munitions depots in the town of Khan Tuman, southwest of Aleppo. The complex had been used to supply the Army with munitions to regularly shell rebel positions in the surrounding area.
On 19 March there was an alleged chemical attack in Khan al-Assal, about 15 kilometers west of Aleppo, with about 26 fatalities. It was the first widely reported use of chemical weapons in the war. Both the government and rebels claim that a missile or rocket was used to deliver the agent. The Syrian Information Minister blamed the rebels for the attack, while the rebels blamed the government.
On the night of 29 March, the opposition Aleppo Media Center claimed that rebel forces had captured Sheik Maqsoud, which was previously held by both government and Kurdish forces. However, SOHR stated that while rebel forces advanced into the district, they had captured only the eastern part. SOHR also reported that heavy fighting was still ongoing. It was also confirmed that during their advance, rebels had captured and killed the top pro-government Sunni cleric in the district, Hassan Seifeddine. Reports by pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV and SANA stated he was beheaded and his head was placed on the minaret of the Al-Hassan Mosque. SOHR confirmed that his body had been dragged and paraded in the neighborhood.
On 31 March, government troops counterattacked. Fighting was concentrated by the Awarded bridge and in the area between eastern Sheikh Maqsoud and the Bustan al-Basha neighborhood. Since the rebel attack on the district started, 43 people had been killed, including 15 civilians, 19 government soldiers and militiamen and 9 rebels.
It was claimed by YPG fighters in Sheik Maqsoud that following a long discussion within the group, the (mostly Kurdish) YPG decided to end their neutrality in Aleppo and switch to the rebel side, cooperating with the FSA in their advance through the district where several pro-government militias and intelligence officers were located. However, a day later, a YPG political representative denied the claim and stated that the Kurds had not aligned with the rebels, instead that Kurdish forces fought government troops after the Army attempted to reach Arab parts of the district that had been captured by opposition forces, via the Kurdish areas.
According to the YPG, as a result of these clashes, which also included artillery, 15 Syrian soldiers and one YPG fighter, YPG military council member Zekeriya Xelîl, were killed.
On 2 April, clashes erupted in the strategic village of Aziza, on the southern outskirts, from which rebels were launching attacks against Aleppo international airport and the adjacent military air base. By 6 April, the military had captured the village, pushing the rebels to the outskirts. Around 35 people were killed, including at least 18 civilians and 5 rebels. The capture of the village was seen as a strategic victory for the military because it would allow the Army to protect its supply convoys and have a strategic spot from which they could shell rebel positions.
On 13 April, nerve gas was reported in Sheikh Maqsood. An anonymous doctor reported three were dead and a dozen wounded. 1,500 doses of atropine were used with a further 2,000 sent by aid agencies. Atropine is a recognised antidote to nerve gases.
By 15 April, rebels had reportedly gained full control of the northern entrance to Aleppo, as well as a factory and a weapons storage facility.
On 16 April, the first Aleppo truce was declared. The temporary truce allowed Red Crescent workers to remove 31 decomposing bodies killed during in the poor al-Sakhour district located in northern Aleppo. Three of the dead were found with tied hands and four were badly burnt.
On 22 April, two Syrian Christian Orthodox Bishops were kidnapped on their return to Aleppo after completing humanitarian work. State media blamed the rebels while the rebels stated, "all probabilities are open."
On 23 April rebels took control of a key position at the strategic Mennagh Military airbase, allowing them to enter the airbase after a months-long siege.
On 24 April, the 11th-century minaret of the rebel-held Great Mosque of Aleppo was destroyed in the fight. Rebels claimed that the Army destroyed the minaret with tank fire to prevent it becoming a sniper position, while the government claimed that it was destroyed by the Nusra Front.
On 4 May, the Siege of Menagh Air Base continued amid reports that rebels had made further advances. It was claimed that rebels had killed the base commander and also seized the second military detachment of the base. Rebels claimed that a group of pilots had defected and assassinated the base's commanding officer. The defectors told rebels that around 200 soldiers remained on base, garrisoned in the headquarters building and supported by a handful of tanks. Many soldiers resorted to sleeping under tanks, fearing a rebel assault.
On 9 May, it was reported that air strikes forced rebels to retreat from the air base.
On 15 May, rebel forces assaulted the main prison in central Aleppo where some 4,000 inmates were held. These include both common and political prisoners. The attack was initiated by twin car bombs at the prison entrance. Rebels secured one compound that housed government forces. The attack bogged down due to the intervention of Syrian tanks and planes. No prisoners were freed.
On 16 May, rebels were forced to retreat when soldiers began throwing inmate's bodies out of the windows. It was reported that rebel fighters took control of a building inside the prison after blowing up the main gate. Rebel fighters continued to hit the facility with rockets late into the night.
In early May, clashes started between rebel groups Ghuraba al-Sham and groups operating under Judicial Committee alliance. The latter accused Ghuraba al-Sham, which was in alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra, of going rogue and looting factories. According to various rebel reports Jabhat al-Nusra started weakening after Nusra leader al-Jolani pledged loyalty to Al-Queda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Before the announcements rebel fighters of various brigades were leaving for Jabhat al-Nusra, in one day about 120 left. Several rebel officials also commented on their disappearance from much of Aleppo.
A former government scientist claimed that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons in small quantities to slow rebel advances. Amongst these areas were the Sheikh Maksoud district. The scientist, who worked for Centre for Scientific Studies and Research, claimed that the alleged gas attack on Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, on 19 March 2013, was likely tear gas and not nerve gas.
On 1 June, 50 prisoners were reported to have been executed by government soldiers, while a further 31 were killed by the rebel bombardment of the central prison. 40 government soldiers were killed by rebels.
On 2 June, a senior commander in the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, said that Assad's forces had called thousands of Hezbollah fighters deeper into Northern Syria, in and around Aleppo, to shore up Assad's overstretched forces and potentially break the stalemate there. It was estimated that around 4,000 Hezbollah fighters responded. Rebels said Hezbollah forces had entered the city on Sunday and were preparing an attack. An unnamed Hezbollah commander stated: “We are going to go after strongholds where they (the FSA) think they are safe. They are going to fall like dominos.”
On 13 June, in a statement on recent clashes in the province of Afrin, in western Kurdistan, People's Defense Units (YPG) Command said that Turkish soldiers attacked the village of Mele Xelîl in Afrin late Wednesday. YPG said, "The armed groups which first attacked our forces in the villages of Aqîn, Basil and Zarat increased in number as of June 10 when they attacked Meresk and Kefer Mezê villages. The armed groups were strongly responded and defeated by our forces". The Command remarked that YPG had strengthened its control as armed groups had to withdraw from the region after the clashes one day later. Referring to the Turkish attacks, YPG said "Troops of the Turkish military launched an attack against the village of Mele Xelîl in Afrin's Cindêris district late Wednesday in support of the armed groups targeting the region of Afrin." YPG said Turkish soldiers were repulsed from the region as a result of the response by YPG units.
Operation Northern Storm
On 9 June 2013, the Army announced the start of operation "Northern Storm", in an attempt to recapture territory in and around Aleppo. In preparation for the assault the Army reinforced the Shiite villages of Al-Nubbul and Zahra which the government intended to use to advance into Aleppo. Rebel defenses in Salamiyeh, south of Aleppo, were strengthened to prevent tanks from moving from that direction.
Between 7 and 14 June, Army troops, government militiamen, and reportedly Hezbollah fighters, launched the operation. Over a one-week period, government forces advanced both in Aleppo city and the countryside, pushing back the rebels. However, on 14 June, according to an opposition activist, the tide started reversing, after rebels halted an armoured reinforcement column from Aleppo headed for the two Shiite villages northwest of the city. As of 16 June, the rebels had held back the column for two days. Rebels claimed to have destroyed one tank and killed 20 government soldiers northwest of Maaret al-Arteek. Before the column was stopped, government forces had captured the high ground at Maaret al-Arteek, threatening rebel positions. Rebels were boosted after receiving at least 50 Russian-made Konkurs anti-tank missiles in the previous few days from Saudi Arabia. During 13 June fighting in Aleppo city, government forces temporarily advanced into rebel-held Sakhour district from two directions, but were soon repelled.
On 12 June, FSA fighters claimed to have killed 40 Hezbollah and Syrian army soldiers, who were traveling in buses, in an ambush between the villages of al-Bouz and al-Khanasir.
On 17 June, a car-bomb hit an Army facility in al-Douwairinah district, east of the international airport. Jabhat al-Nusra claimed responsibility for the attack. Some opposition activists claimed the attack killed at least 60 troops. However, according to SOHR, only six soldiers were killed and 15 wounded.
Rebel offensive in the West
On 21 June 2013, the FSA said that 13 rebel brigades, amongst them the large Liwa al-Tawhid and the Farouq units, had launched a new offensive. One of the targets was the military research facility in the Rashidin area of New Aleppo. Rebel mortars set it ablaze. The rebels claimed that they were moving forward in Rashidin with the aim of removing military targets including areas used by the army to shell rebel areas.
On 23 June, 12 government soldiers were killed by a car bomb while 6 rebels from the Islamist Al-Farouq Brigade were killed.
On 24 June, rebels claimed to have repulsed a loyalist attack crediting their victory to newly arrived anti-tank weapons. Aleppo military council leader Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi claimed, "The regime pushed forward in the north of the city, but the Free Syrian Army caused a lot of casualties and they went back to their bases." The renewed offensive was called "The Battle of Qadisiyah", a reference to a battle, from 636 CE, in which an Arab army defeated a Persian army. According to one rebel fighter, the rebels were launching counterattacks in the north east and west of the city, advancing into the agricultural research center.
On 25 June, rebels advancing in western Aleppo were reportedly engaging in "tit for tat" operations against the Army in Rashidin and Ashrafiyeh, according to SOHR.
A numbering of people were killed in the shelling of Aleppo Central Prison on 7 July, though who fired the shells was not immediately known. Syrian government forces retained control over New Aleppo despite initial rebel advances in the area, with the opposing sides entrenched sometimes as close as 200 meters to one another.
An activist said that an apparent rebel blockade of the southwestern highway was causing fast-emerging food shortages in government-held areas. A rebel source denied that it was intentional, saying that intensified fighting on the highway was to blame, with no vehicle on the highway safe from the fighting. The Southwestern highway is the source of food supplies to western Aleppo, and among the most strategic roads leading into the city.
On 17 July, rebel fighters were reportedly making small advances in Salaheddine.
On 21 July, reports emerged that rebel fighters had taken full control of the Aleppo suburb of Khan Al-Assal, along with the towns of Mataa and Summakiyah, east of the city. Khan Al-Assal was the last government stronghold west of Aleppo, and rebels claimed that seizing it had given them control of the entire Western Aleppo countryside. Unverified video footage showed the body of the Syrian Army's operations commander in Khan Al-Assal, General Hassan Youssef Hassan who rebels of the Al Ansar brigade claimed they killed in clashes. In the video they also displayed his ID card. Both opposition and government sources reported that about 150 government soldiers were killed during the battle, including 51 who were executed after they had surrendered. The executions were reportedly carried out by members of the Al-Nusra Front and the Ansar al-Khalafa al-Islamiya Briagade.
By 23 July, some analysts regarded operation "Northern Storm" to be a feint, since no large-scale offensive was launched by the Army, with the aim of diverting rebel resources to the Aleppo region while government forces escalated their Siege of Homs in an attempt to clear out the remaining rebel hold-outs in the city center.
On 31 July, government soldiers attacked rebel positions outside Khan al-Assal after gathering reinforcements for a new assault.
On 6 August, rebel fighters took full control of the Menagh airbase after an almost 10 months long siege.
On 16 August, government warplanes bombed the rebel-held Kalassa district, destroying three buildings and killing 15.
On 23 August, rebels took control of 13 villages in southern and eastern Aleppo.
On 26 August, rebels took control of the strategic town of Khanasir located between Aleppo and Hama province reportedly killing more than 50 pro government fighters. The town was the Syrian Army's only supply route out of Aleppo, and SOHR claimed that its capture had effectively left pro government forces in Aleppo besieged by rebel forces.
On 21 September, rebels seized control of several villages south of Aleppo in an offensive aimed at cutting the supply lines of Pro Assad forces from Damascus.
On 1 October, 16 militants were killed in an ambush while trying to slip into the Salah al-Din district. A number of other militants were also killed in a separate incident during clashes with the Syrian army in the Ansari district, adjacent to Salah al-Din.
On 3 October, Syria's army took back control of a strategic town Khanaser of Aleppo in the northern province of Aleppo on Thursday after a weeks-long battle pitting troops against rebels, a monitoring group said. Several days later, the supply line to Aleppo was reopened as army troops advanced in the villages around Khanaser. State agency SANA claimed the Army had restored control over 40 villages in the area and engineering units had dismantled insurgent fortifications, about 600 anti-tank mines and 1,500 explosive devices.
On 10 October, a rebel advance in Salaheddine led to a large gun battle which left 10 government troops dead along with 6 rebels.
Battle of Base 80 and Army advances
On 8 November 2013, 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. 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. After dark, rebels counter-attacked and by dawn the next day managed to recapture most of the base, with fighting still occurring around it. During the attack, rebels used GRAD rockets to strike the base.
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. By the afternoon, the Army was once again in full control of the base. According to the SOHR, 63 rebels, including at least 11 foreign fighters, and 32 soldiers were killed during the battle. One other report put the number of rebels killed between 60 and 80. Army units were backed-up by Hezbollah fighters and pro-government militias during the assault.
On 12 November, government forces, backed by tanks, captured two highrise buildings in the northern Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid districts, and advanced into the two neighborhoods after close-quarter street fighting. On 17 November, Syrian Army troops advanced in the Saif al-Dawlah neighborhood and seized control over a number of sites, with fighting still ongoing in the neighborhood.
Air force offensive
Between 15 and 28 December 2013, a series of Army helicopter attacks with barrel bombs against rebel-held areas of Aleppo left 517 people dead, including 151 children, 46 women and 46 rebels, according to the SOHR. 76 of those killed died on the first day alone, while 93–100 people were killed on 22 December. By 18 December 879 people were wounded. 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. A rebel commander claimed that by 26 December, more than 1,000 people had been killed in the bombing campaign. On 9 January, aid groups stated more than 700 people had been killed since the start of the bombing campaign.
On 20 December, Islamist rebels, including members of the Al-Nusra Front, took control over the Kindi hospital, which had been used by government soldiers as a base for several months. At least 20 regular soldiers were killed and dozens were taken prisoner in the fighting which began after two Al-Nusra fighters detonated themselves at checkpoints guarding the hospital. A few days later, government forces stormed and recaptured much of the Bani Zeid neighborhood of Bani Zeid on the northeastern outskirts of the city.
On 25 December, pro-government sources claimed that the Syrian Army captured the al-Sheikh Maqsoud and al-Jbanat areas of Aleppo city.
On 8 January 2014, Islamist rebel forces loyal to the National Coalition attacked the ISIS headquarters at a hospital in the Qadi Askar district of Aleppo. Reports indicate that the rebels were successful in capturing the base, freeing dozens of rebel and civilian prisoners while also recovering the bodies of dozens of people who appeared to have been executed. Elsewhere, over 100 ISIS forces reportedly surrendered in Aleppo's Saliheen district. By the end of 6 January, the death toll in the bombings had risen to 603, including 172 children, 54 women and 54 rebels.
On 9 January, it was reported that all ISIS forces were driven out of Aleppo city by the rebels.
Renewed Army ground offensive
On 11 January 2014, government forces secured the area of Al-Naqqarin and Sheikh Yusuf hill and were advancing towards the industrial area of Aleppo city. 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.
On 14 January, the Army reportedly captured Al-Zarzour, Al-Taaneh, Al-Subeihieh and Height 53 on the eastern outskirts of Aleppo. On 15 January, an Al-Manar correspondent reported that the Army captured Al-Sabaheyya, al-Faory and Tal-Riman, east of Al-Safira, and was pushing towards the electricity station, northeast of Al-Safira. Later, Al-Manar claimed that the Army captured Tell Alam and Huwejna, east of Aleppo, also on the approaches to the electricity station. At the same time, government troops pushed out of Kweires military airport, east of Aleppo and the station, and captured villages around the base.
On 16 January, the Army made slow progress in the neighborhood of Bani Zeid, while the rebels captured two buildings in the Saif Al-Dawla district.
On 17 January, the Army bombarded the villages of Tal-Na'am, Jobul and Tal-Estabel and captured the village of Tal-Sobeha. 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.
On 25 January, the Army captured the neighborhood of Karam Al-Qasr on the eastern side of Aleppo city, after three days of fighting.
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.
On 28 January, rebels captured the Maarath Al-Artik mountain, which the Army used to shell nearby rebel-held towns. 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".
On 2 February, the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper announced that the Army captured most of the eastern Karam al-Turab district of Aleppo.
On 6 February, the opposition announced a new offensive in Aleppo and warned civilians living near government owned checkpoints should move out because the checkpoints were going to be targets for insurgents. Islamist brigade Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra Front took near full control of Aleppo Central Prison, storming the center after a British suicide bomber named Abu Suleiman al-Britani detonated a car bomb at the entrance.Rebels claimed to have seize most of the complex and to have freed hundreds of detainees, many of them activists from the prison, which reportedly held 3,000 prisoners in dire conditions. The next day, the Army managed to recapture most of the prison. At least 47 people died in the fighting, including the Al-Nusra commander of the Aleppo prison operation: Sayfullah al-Shishani. Government sources claim that soldiers inside of the prison destroyed the suicide bomber's truck with RPGs before he reached the entrance. They also denied the Islamists entering the prison, and claimed that artillery and air force strikes forced them to retreat.
On 17 February, the Tawhid Brigade of the Islamic Front launched Operation 'Earthquake' and detonated mines under the Army headquarters at the Carlton Hotel, leaving parts of the hotel damaged. Opposition sources also claimed that rebels captured strategic points around the Aleppo citadel.
On 19 February, rebels claimed to had recaptured Sheikh Najjar, while, the SOHR stated it was unclear who controlled the area. The next day, the Army re-secured Sheikh Najjar and captured two strategic hills that overlook the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, al-Ghalia and Syriatel. It was also reported that rebels detonated mines under an army headquarters near the Aleppo citadel. This was the third such attack this month using a network of tunnels.
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. 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.
By 9 March, 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.
On 17 March, SOHR claimed that 4 government soldiers were killed in an ambush set up by rebels in the perimeter of the Aleppo central prison.
On 18 March, rebels detonated an "explosive device" in a tunnel under the Justice Palace, with casualties among the government soldiers claimed but not confirmed. The rebels claimed to have seized the Justice Palace after the blast.
Rebel offensive in western Aleppo
On 23 March, rebels claimed to have captured Kafr Hamra, the Shweihneh strategic hill overlooking west Aleppo and briefly cut off the supply route to Aleppo airport before government troops found another supply route. Rebels also claimed to have captured the police station on the edge of the citadel, as well as military installations in the Al-Layramoun district.
On 27 March, the SOHR reported that the Jabhat Al-Nusra and the security battalion of the al-Mujahideen army detained more than 70 foreign fighters of the Jund al-Sham battalion in the al-Muhandiseen suburb under accusations of planning an attack on other rebels.
On 28 March, it was reported that a Syrian brigadier general of the Republican Guard and five of its soldiers were killed in the Al-Layramoun district.
On 9 April, it was reported that the Syria's Red Crescent and the UN refugee agency had delivered aid to rebel-held areas of Aleppo city for the first time in 10 months.
On 10 April, the SOHR reported that the rebels took the technical services building and the al-Khadamat al-Faniya building near the air force intelligence building, but pro-government sources denied that the rebels were advancing in western Aleppo. It was also reported that the Army was trying to regain control over the rebel controlled A’qrab area.
On 12 April, rebels reportedly stormed the government held Ramouseh industrial district, in an attempt to cut the Army supply route between the airport and a large Army base next to district. The rebels also reportedly took the Rashidin neighbourhood and parts of the Jamiat al-Zahra district, while rare clashes between the Army and YPG took place in the al-Sheikh Maqsoud area. The SOHR stated that there had been casualties on both sides and civilians had fled the area.
On 15 April, opposition sources claimed that rebels took the Sadkop area and the police station in the Ramouseh district, but the Army managed to recapture lost ground in the district later that day. At least seven pro-government fighters were killed in the district, while 18 rebels were reportedly killed that day in and around aleppo city.
On 16 April, the pro-government channel Al Mayadeen reported that the Army fully recaptured the Ramouseh district.
On 17 April, the rebels detonated "explosive devices" underneath Army positions around the Hanano Barracks, before attacking it. State Media claimed the attack was repelled, while opposition activists claimed the rebels were advancing. The SOHR stated that at least 27 regular troops and 20 rebels, including a commander, were killed in the fighting. Meanwhile, 11 civilians were killed and 40 others wounded by rebel bombardments on government-held areas in the city. The SOHR also claimed that rebels had seized buildings near the Air Force Intelligence building.
Rebel forces expanded out to the country side south of Aleppo to control sections of the M4 and M5 highway, effectively blocking ground reinforcements for the Syrian Army. Before the end of 2012, the Syrian army in Aleppo was receiving sporadic supplies and ammo replenishment by air or dangerous back roads. The fall of Base 46, a large complex in the area which reinforced and supplied regime troops was seen by experts as "a tactical turning point that may lead to a strategic shift" in the battle for Aleppo. In a November 2012 intelligence report, Stratfor described the strategic position of regime forces in Aleppo as "dire", with the Free Syrian Army having them "essentially surrounded".
On 26 November 2012, rebels captured Tishrin Dam, further isolating regime forces in Aleppo with only one uncovered route into Aleppo remaining. By late January 2013 Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil admitted that all supply routes to Aleppo had been cut off by opposition forces, comparing the situation to the Siege of Leningrad. By late February 2013, the Aleppo international airport was almost totally surrounded by rebel forces. Later, the Syrian army regained control of the strategic Tel Sheigeb town allowing them to approach the airport.
In November 2013, the Syrian army retook the town of al-Safira. This opens a road for the government to support the besieged Kuweires Military Airbase and Aleppo Power Plant. Recently the government has diverted additional regiments from Hama and Homs countryside which undoubtably has turned the tides of the battle.
In February 2014, it was reported that the army plans to encircle Aleppo and impose a mix of blockades and truces, breaking resistance into smaller and smaller circles, using similar techniques as were used successfully in the Rif Dimashq Governorate campaign. There are also reported plans to reopen the Sheikh Najjar Industrial City, in order to rebuild the economy and provide jobs that would lure rebel fighters to quit. However, even if the army were to seize Sheikh Najjar and reinforce Aleppo Central Prison, imposing a siege on rebel-held Aleppo would be a difficult task. First, Aleppo presents many more logistical challenges for the army, especially for pro-government groups such as Hezbollah, who would prefer fighting closer to Lebanon. Second, rebels control more terrain in Aleppo than in other cities, so effectively cutting off access would be more difficult. Third, rebels have a strong presence in the countryside and around the border crossings with Turkey.
- Syria – President Bashar al-Assad said on the occasion of the 67th anniversary of the Syrian Arab Army in August 2012, that "the army is engaged in a crucial and heroic battle... on which the destiny of the nation and its people rests..."
- Armenia – Armenia began sending humanitarian aid to Aleppo in mid-October. The aid is distributed by Red Crescent, the Armenian National Prelacy in Aleppo, Aleppo Emergency unit and the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to Syria. Governor of the Aleppo Governorate, Hilal Hial, said, "the Syrian people highly appreciate this humanitarian gesture of the Armenian people, underling the strong Syrian-Armenian cooperation."
- France – The French Foreign Ministry said, "With the build-up of heavy weapons around Aleppo, Assad is preparing to carry out a fresh slaughter of his own people", while Italy and the UN peacekeeping chief also accused the government of preparing to massacre civilians.
- Iran – As the battle of Aleppo started, Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, met with Assad in Damascus and vowed that Iran would help Assad to confront "attempts at blatant foreign interference" in Syria's internal affairs, declaring, "Iran will not allow the axis of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be an essential part, to be broken in any way."
- Russia – The Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement condemning the bombing that occurred on 9 September 2012 in which more than 30 people were killed. "We firmly condemn the terrorist acts which claim the lives of innocent people", stated the Ministry on 11 September. The Foreign Ministry also called the foreign powers to pressure the armed opposition to halt launching "terrorist attacks". The Russian Consulate General in Aleppo "suspended operations" on 16 January 2013.
- Turkey – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged international action, saying it was not possible "to remain a spectator" to the government offensive on Aleppo. Reuters reported that Turkey had set up a base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the purpose of directing military and communications aid to the Free Syrian Army from the city of Adana. Reuters also quoted a Doha-based source which stated that Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were providing weapons and training to the rebel fighters.
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