AMMAN: After three days of battle, the Islamic State (IS) has reportedly captured a key section of the last regime-held supply route into Aleppo city, cutting off land-based supplies to regime forces fighting in a recent Russian-backed offensive to encircle the provincial capital, Aleppo-based journalists told Syria Direct Monday.
The road runs for approximately 50km, connecting battle lines in Aleppo and its surrounding countryside to regime-held cities, towns and villages to the south. While reports vary, at least 15km of this route are now in the hands of IS. An estimated 11 regime checkpoints lie along the road–all of which have since fallen to IS, its fighters boasted on Sunday.
The Khanaser-Ithriya road is the regime’s last land route supplying its forces in Aleppo. Color key: Red (regime), Green (moderate, Islamist and hardline rebels), Black (the Islamic State). Map courtesy of Agathocle de Syracuse.
Pro-regime daily Al-Watan implied at least some of the road was lost to IS, reporting on Monday “the Syrian army is completing its attack to capture the Hama-Aleppo road from the Islamic State.”
The Hama-Aleppo road, a leg of which is called the Khanaser-Ithriya road, “is the regime’s last supply route for ground shipments and troop transports into Aleppo–especially Shiite militia reinforcements heading north from Hama to the Aleppo battlefront,” Amar al-Halaby, a journalist and media activist on the battle’s front lines, told Syria Direct Monday.
“If IS manages to hang on to the road, it will break the back of the regime’s offensive in Aleppo,” he added.
As rebel-held Idlib lies just next-door to the west, “the Victory Army will share a new frontline with IS to the east,” said al-Halaby.
Accounts differ as to precisely how much of the road now lies under IS control; estimates range from 15km, tweeted Radio Sawa Washington correspondent Zaid Benjamin on Monday, to 18km, according to an Orient News report on Saturday.
The captured road connects the regime’s Aleppo front to supplies and reinforcements to the southwest in Hama through the three towns of a-Salamiyah, Ithriya and Khanaser. From Hama city, regime supplies first run through a-Salamiyah, approximately 30km to the southeast, before swinging northeast to Ithriya, another 75km away.
After Ithriya, regime supply trucks move northwest to the Aleppo countryside through the town of Khanaser. It is a stretch along this final, vital leg of road, from Ithriya to Khanaser, that now reportedly lies in IS hands. Although battle is still reportedly ongoing for the road, Khanaser itself remains under regime control.
An Islamic State (IS) fighter standing over an M46 130mm field gun, reportedly captured from regime forces at one of several fallen checkpoints along the Ithriya-Khanaser road. An approximately 15km stretch of this road now lies under IS control, complicating the regime’s recently launched, Russian-backed campaign to capture Aleppo city. Photo source: IS. 2015.