AMMAN: Regime forces are hanging on to a village along the last major land-based supply route leading into Aleppo city on Wednesday, one day after reportedly staving off an Islamic State assault.
Despite Islamic State claims to the contrary, pro-regime media and some opposition activists and correspondents on the ground confirm that the village of Ithriya in the eastern Hama countryside, and with that the road, remains in regime hands.
The village is strategic because it “lies on what is currently the last supply route for the regime leading towards Aleppo [the Hama-Aleppo highway],” Jawwad al-Hamawi, a pro-opposition journalist with the Developmental Interaction Network, told Syria Direct Wednesday.
As for the timing, the IS assault comes two weeks after other rebels made a failed attempt along the same road.
“If this supply route were cut off, overland supplies would no longer reach the regime in Aleppo,” al-Hamawi said.
Instead, the regime would be forced to “rely on air lifts, or smaller shipments from scattered pro-regime towns outside Aleppo,” Hussein al-Khitab, a Hama-based journalist told Syria Direct earlier this month.
The circumstances of Tuesday’s attack were not immediately clear.
“The Syrian army was able to stop the attack that IS carried out on the village [of Ithriya],” Abu Talib al-Buhiya, Russia Today’s correspondent in Syria, told Syria Direct Wednesday, information that corresponds with a Facebook post Wednesday by National Defense forces.
Yassin Abu Raed, correspondent for pro-opposition al-Quds al-Arabi who is based in Aleppo, denied that IS had taken the village, as did Jawwad al-Hamawi. Neither clarified whether the regime had driven out the attackers or whether IS had engineered a tactical retreat.
The fact that the Islamic State attacked Ithriya two weeks after a similar rebel capture and subsequent withdrawal from a checkpoint near the Hama-Aleppo highway caught the attention of correspondent Yassin Abu Raed.
“IS tries to take control of any point that might be important for the rebels, or that the rebels want to capture. They want to take control over all the main roads in Syria, especially after capturing Palmyra.”