The Unfinished Battle For Aleppo
by Aref Hamdoush
Aleppo – the economic capital of Syria, home of 6 million, and one of the most important historical cities of the Syrian Arabic Republic. Aleppo is where the primary factories of medicine and industry are located in Syria . Thus, its strategic importance could determine the fate of the ongoing bloody conflict in Syria.
Until the battle for Aleppo the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had been using guerilla style tactics, not taking a stand and holding territory, but constantly moving. They had also stayed mostly in the countryside where they could hide and blend in with the civilian population more easily. These tactics made it very difficult for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) defeat them as they learned in Homs and elsewhere.
In August 2012 the SAA lured the FSA into Aleppo by creating false security blunders. Initially 40 thousand militants; trained and battle hardened in Libya, Afghanistan, Turkey, and other places; came and their numbers continued to mount to roughly 200 thousand in January 2013. Then the FSA sought to destroy the Syrian anti-air defenses so that the Turkey could establish a no-fly zone; they offered Turkey the gas rich city of Latakia in return.
Urban warfare is the most brutal of all. A soldier will fight with a gun, knife, and even his hands. From house to house door to door, there are no rests in such fights. The SAA started the battle with false television reports that the field commander of the FSA had ordered a retreat. This allowed the SAA to take and fortify many strategic sites, and then began targeted attacks on FSA leaders, armored vehicles, and ammunition deposits.
The SAA attacked in small units to split the FSA held areas and capture them one at a time. The SAA suffered many losses to the FSA’s artillery and armored vehicles. It was discovered that the FSA possessed chemical weapons and S200 long range anti-air missiles.
The FSA succeeded in establishing supply routes from Aleppo to the Turkish border and occupying large areas of the city. The FSA had planned to capture strategic sites in the city to setup chemical rockets and anti-air missiles. The SAA bombed critical FSA positions, and the FSA took out fighter jets with their anti-air missiles. The SAA special forces were able to capture the FSA’s anti-air defense sites with cover from their heavy artillery.
The SAA sent a large military convoy to cut the FSA’s supply lines from Turkey by closing the border; but they walked into a trap and were captured resulting in the loss of military equipment, hostages and killings of many SAA soldiers. The opportunity to close the borders was lost.
The FSA also made a grave mistake: they had made a deal with the Kurdish communities in Aleppo where they would kill all the Alawites but not harm the Kurds; and in return they would be allowed into the Kurdish areas. However they violated the deal and killed Kurds as well as they moved into the areas in large numbers, causing the Kurds to turn against them.
In January the FSA failed to take out all of the air defenses and began to retreat. However the battle is far from over. The FSA destroyed the economy of Aleppo which had disastrous consequences: power outages and fuel shortages all over Syria. Many died because of limited energy and inadequate food. Many Syrian girls and women were raped, killed and used as human shields; children were forced to fight; journalists were kidnapped; and emergency vehicles where attacked. All this in the name of human rights and freedom.
About the author: Aref Hamdoush lives in Lattakia. He is a military and political analyst and has studies military science for 5 years. His sources include friends in the Syrian army, and former friends who have joined the FSA. Help with translation has come from Seth Rutledge