Assad regime and its allies achieved new advancement in their ongoing offensive on Aleppo, seizing al-Shaar key neighborhood from the rebels and trapping them in 30% of the area they have previously held.
By the summer of 2015, President Assad seemed on the verge of being overthrown. Then Russia launched its military intervention – all the while paying lip service to a diplomatic process the US administration pursued to no avail.
The Russian intervention tilted the war in favor of Assad regime and cost the rebels many of their strongholds, making Aleppo one of the last ones and the most important pressure point on Assad regime to accept a political solution to end the war. However, Aleppo became under heavy fire and crippling siege since the start of this year
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo since the start of this year.
Many ceasefire agreements accompanied by peace talks meetings were organized to help find a solution to the crisis, but Assad regime breached every ceasefire and hindered every peace talks meeting without any pressure moves or real steps from the western powers.
Assad regime forces have gradually closed in on eastern Aleppo this year, first cutting the most direct lifeline to Turkey before fully encircling the east, and launching a major assault in September.
Assad regime forces started a major offensive to push opposition fighters out of the besieged eastern half of the city on 15 November.
Helicopters continue extensively dropping barrel bombs in conjunction with airstrikes by warplanes on areas in the eastern neighborhoods of the city, accompanied by artillery shelling by the regime forces in the same places.
The regime’s forces’ persistent and the intensive airstrikes forced the rebels to leave the areas they hold.
By Monday the 28th of November, the rebels have lost most of the northern neighborhoods in besieged east Aleppo, nearly third of their territory.
The clashes continued on November 30, as the regime forces pushed harder and the rebels vowed to defend the remaining areas.
The army and its allies said they had taken the Sheikh Saeed district in the south of the city on November 30.
On Sunday the 4th of December, Assad regime forces and their allies said they have advanced in Aleppo overnight seizing Tareq al-Bab, another neighborhood from rebels. With this new advancement, the rebels lost half of their previous territory.
The rebels lose most of their territory
The regime’s rapid gains have left rebel fighters scrambling to defend the shrinking enclave they still control in Aleppo’s southeastern districts.
Assad regime forces gained more ground in the battle for Aleppo on Monday.
Assad regime and allied militias seized the Qadi Askar neighborhood overnight and were in control of about two-thirds of the former rebel territory in east Aleppo.
“The regime and its allies are now about 800 meters from the citadel … They’re now in control of about 60 percent of what used to be the rebel-controlled east,” a journalist said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the latest advances had left the large al-Shaar neighborhood effectively encircled by Assad regime forces.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the army was attacking both from inside east Aleppo as well as from the regime-held western districts.
“It is the most important neighborhood in the heart of east Aleppo, and is on the brink of falling.”
“The regime is draining the rebel fighters of ammunition by opening many fronts at the same time,” he said.
On Tuesday the allied forces kept pushing, seizing al-Shaar in the end after breaking the rebels resistance in it.
With the capture of Shaar, the regime is holding nearly 70 percent of east Aleppo, four years after rebels first seized it and divided the ancient city.
“The regime forces backed by gunmen loyal to them managed to achieve a new advancement and complete their control of the entire neighborhood of al-Shaar, along with other neighborhoods in the Old City of Aleppo, in conjunction with their advancement and controlling by firearm large parts of Sheikh Lutfi neighborhood and Marja neighborhood in the southeastern part of the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo,” the observatory said.
More than 700 civilians were killed in the eastern parts since the offensive started.
Capturing eastern Aleppo would be the biggest victory for Assad regime since the start of the revolution against him in 2011, restoring his control over the whole city apart from a Kurdish-held area that has not fought against him.
It would also be seen as a victory for his allies, Russia and Iran, which have outmaneuvered the West and Assad’s regional enemies through direct military intervention.
For Assad regime, taking back Aleppo would make its forces focus on ending the remaining rebels-held areas. These areas include the rebels’ stronghold in Idlib in addition to isolated areas in rural Damascus, Homs, and Hama.
These areas have been under daily bombardment and crippling siege for years. The Old city of Homs and parts of rural Damascus has already been lost to Assad regime, and the remaining areas are expected to follow.
As a conclusion, defeating the rebels and retrieving Aleppo means destroying the last major resistance stronghold of the Syrian rebels and will lead eventually to the victory of Assad regime and ending the Syrian revolution.
The fate of rebel-held Aleppo spells the abject failure of the west’s contradictory and piecemeal policies. It is a humiliation for the UN. Its fall will be an unequivocal victory for Russian strategy. Aleppo will join an infamous list of cities whose names are synonymous with mass crimes committed while the world looked impotently on: Srebrenica, Grozny, even Guernica.