Expected Regime Movements After the Ceasefire
Northern Rural Aleppo: Syrian regime military forces backed by Russian fighter jets have succeeded in targeting both their short-term and long-term targets in northern Aleppo. The most obvious achievements of the Syrian military forces during the February 2016 offensive in northern Aleppo are:
1. Taking control of the elevated hilltop in northern rural Aleppo “Tel Jbein” and securing the northern and eastern sides of “Tal Bashkoy”.
2. Breaking the siege on the villages of Nubul and Zahraa after taking control of “Hardatayn and Marast Al Khan”.
3. Securing the northern entrance to the villages of Nubul and Zahraa after taking control of “Mayer and Kafeen”.
The Syrian Democratic Forces operating in adjacent battle fronts with the regime are a convenient indirect ally for regime forces and after the regime’s recent gains there is no way that the regime will back out of a battle in which it has indirect an ally considered as part of the opposition. Regime forces will attempt to maintain control of their recent gains by shelling Syrian opposition positions from the newly controlled hilltops and coordinate air strikes with the Russian air force.
Rural western and southern Aleppo: In rural western Aleppo, regime forces are aiming to secure Nubul and Zahraa from the southern front by recently increasing their attacks in the area on the short-term targets of “Bayanuon and Hayyan”. At the same time, “Kafar Hamra” is the regime’s main long-term target in the area since taking control of this village will allow the regime to connect “Nubul and Zahraa” with Aleppo City from the south. It is likely that regime forces will conduct their advance at the same time that Syrian Democratic Forces will move south towards “Atma and Dar Izza”.
The regime’s main goal in southern rural Aleppo is obviously to attack the Aleppo – Idleb highway with hopes to break the siege on “Kafraya and Foua” and to cut off Syrian revolutionary forces’ supply lines between
Western Aleppo and Idleb. It is likely that the regime will delay starting such a battle until it completes operations to secure its strategic goals in rural western Aleppo.
Eastern Rural Aleppo: Regime forces achieved the majority of their strategic goals in eastern rural Aleppo with help from the Russian air force, and those include:
1. Breaking the siege of Kweires Airport.
2. Securing all areas surrounding Kweires Airport in all directions.
3. Taking control of the main road that connects “Eastern Kweires” village with the town of Nayreb as preparation to take the thermal plant in western Aleppo.
Despite Syrian regime advances, the more obvious and critical short-term target for the Syrian regime is to take control of Al Bab in eastern Aleppo. Bysecuring Al Bab, the regime will not only secure a military victory but a political one as well. The regime will claim that it is maintaining active battlefronts with the Islamic State and thus sanctify the Assad regime as the best ally to fight terrorism in Syria.
The Central Front:
Rural Lattakia and Al Ghab Plains: In a map, published February 24, 2016 the Information Unit pointed out that the regime intends to attack the towns of Kabani and Al Sirmaniye as short-term targets. This is exactly what took place on March 2, 2016 despite the announced ceasefire at the time. The regime conducted an extensive military operation on Kabani and Al Sirmaniye after an unknown source targeted with five consecutive airstrikes. With help from Russian airstrikes, the regime is working to weaken the opposition’s defenses on the road leading to Jisr Al Shghoor by targeting the eastern flank of the main road, especially in Kabani and Al Sirmaniye. The regime is conducting similar operations on the western flank of the same road targeting Najiya, Zuaina, Kanda and Bdama. These operations aim to help regime forces retake the main road in an attempt to prepare for a major operation to retake Jisr Al Shghoor.
Northern Rural Homs/Southern Hama: Regime forces took advantage of the Russian military operations to retake Deir Al Firdays and the electricity plant in January 2016. After these offensives, the regime ceased all operations in the area until the start of the ceasefire on February 28, 2016. On the first day of the ceasefire, Russian fighter jets conducted 20 air strikes on “Hur Binafsu” in coordination with Syrian regime artillery shelling on the same town. The increased military operations by both Russia nd the Syrian regime in this area is due to the regime’s desire to take complete control of “Hur Binafsu” to tighten the siege on “Al Houla” in Homs. If the Syrian opposition loses “Hur Binafsu” this will significantly worsen the siege on northern Homs allowing the regime to increase its efforts to pressure any remaining pockets of resistance into accepting the reconciliation settlement it has repeatedly presented to the residents of northern Homs only to have it rejected.