GAINING ON ALEPPO: Government troops Tuesday pressed towards rebel held Eastern Aleppo and the strategic Kwers military airbase where armed insurgents have encircled battalions loyal to Assad since January.
The advance is part of a series of government operations around Khanasir in the weeks following the chemical arms deal between the United Nations and Damascus.
An armaments factory adjacent to the town is widely believed to be among the few chemical weapons production and storage sites still remaining in contested areas in September when an agreement was reached to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.
Additionally Khanasir sits at the strategic terminus of the supply route between Hama and Aleppo.
Government forces took control of Safira Thursday night after a month long campaign of aerial bombardment and shelling. A local pro-revolution activist told Syria Direct that large numbers of civilians have fled from Safira toward the villages in Aleppo‘s northern countryside still held by rebel forces. Others who were encamped on the towns perimeter due to the ongoing attacks ultimately fled into Aleppo after regime forces captured Safira in its entirety. The displaced brought furniture and other household items with them as they raced into the city of Aleppo where rebels and government forces continued to clash Tuesday.
The Safira LCC spokesman who is now heading to safety in Turkey, claimed that the opposition forces did not include fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an account at variance with statements in state-run media. He added that the regime dropped some 450 barrel bombs during its month long campaign along with roughly 700 mortar rounds and rockets.
Syrian state television reported that government forces have exerted control over the village of Aziziya, having “cleansed” it of opposition fighters. Aziziya is located north of Safira and south of the village of Tal Arn, where clashes are ongoing. Tal Arn is the last obstacle to a regime’s advance toward Kwers Military Airbase and Eastern Aleppo.
“We are currently launching heavy attacks against Tal Arn, and within days the village will go the same way as Aziziya–safely under the regime’s control.” an officer told a correspondent for the government channel.
As the officer spoke, the camera zooms to the columns of smoke rising from Tal Arn.