Offensive reported on key Syrian city of Aleppo
By RAJA ABDULRAHIM | Los Angeles Times | Published: June 12, 2013
Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters have begun an offensive near the once-commercial city of Aleppo to cut off the rebels’ supply line from Turkey and attempt to regain control of the north.
It comes a week after the government and its Lebanese-Shiite allies reclaimed the strategic town of Qusair, near the Lebanese border, from the opposition.
In Aleppo province, the opposition has made steady gains over the last year, controlling about half of Aleppo city and much of the province. Rebel forces claim to be near the end of a battle to seize a military air base near the Turkish border. But government forces have begun a push that could see the province fall back under their control.
State media reported Tuesday that army units beat back "terrorists" in a number of locations in Aleppo city and the countryside. The government refers to the opposition as terrorists. North of Aleppo, soldiers clashed with opposition fighters who attacked military checkpoints near a mountain the government had previously taken control of, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency.
The rise of Hezbollah fighters in Syria – as well as reports of Shiite fighters from Iran and Iraq – has helped shift the dyanmics of the civil war.
On Monday, the Gulf Cooperation Council, made up of Gulf Arab countries, which have provided the bulk of support for the Syrian opposition, announced that it would levy sanctions against Hezbollah members.
Riyad Al-Islam, an activist with the pro-rebel Aleppo Media Center, said that Hezbollah fighters came to reinforce two pro-government Shiite villages, Nubil and Zahra, on the northern outskirts of Aleppo city and are advancing incrementally in their attempt to seize more territory north of the city.
Cutting off the supply line from Turkey – which brings weapons and humanitarian aid - would make the city and other opposition-held towns more vulnerable to government attacks.
The yellow Hezbollah flag has been flown at checkpoints on the road that runs alongside the two villages and photos of government fighters posted on pro-regime sites show some wearing yellow armbands, Al-Islam said.