Al Nusrah Front, allies launch offensive south of Aleppo

16-04-03 Al Nusrah claims success at Talat al-'Iss

Al Nusrah Front claims to have captured a small village near the Talat al-‘Iss hill in Syria’s Aleppo province.

Al Nusrah Front and allied rebel groups launched an offensive in the countryside south of the city of Aleppo on April 1. The battle began when three Al Nusrah suicide bombers struck positions occupied by Shiite militias and Syrian regime forces near the Talat al-‘Iss hill.

The bombings cleared the way for other fighters to stream in. On one of its official Twitter accounts, Al Nusrah has released a series of images documenting the explosions caused by its trio of suicide bombers. According to jihadists on social media, one of the “martyrs” was a native of Albania.

Al Nusrah, which is an official branch of al Qaeda, claims that the operation was a success and its fighters have captured Talat al-‘Iss, as well as a small village close by.

Using a small drone to record aerial footage, the group’s propagandists produced a short video showing the area after its “liberation.” The jihadists have also released a series of images documenting their preparations for the battle and the war booty captured, including arms and vehicles. Some of these photos are included at the end of this article.

A Syrian regime source explained to Reuters the strategic importance of the location, which is sparsely populated. “This is the dividing line, the front position of the Syrian army in the southern (Aleppo) countryside,” a Syrian military source said. “In south Aleppo, armed groups in coordination with [Nusrah] Front attacked some military positions … in the direction of Talat al-‘Iss and the surrounding areas. Of course this is a clear breach of the truce.”

Al Nusrah is not a party to the ceasefire that the Assad regime, Russia and a number of opposition groups agreed to earlier this year. It is not clear what other rebel organizations participated in the offensive, but Al Nusrah regularly relies on manpower from closely allied jihadists and Islamists. The al Qaeda arm also frequently cooperates with Western-backed rebels.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 12.07.41 PM

Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, an al Qaeda-affiliated cleric, celebrated the jihadists’ success at Talat al-‘Iss by delivering a talk at a local mosque that had been controlled by Shiite fighters.

Muhaysini posted the image on the right on his personal Twitter feed. The top photo shows him speaking from the pulpit. And the image on the bottom shows a Shiite commander delivering a talk from the same spot when Hezbollah and allied Shiite militias controlled the area.

The assault on Talat al-‘Iss is part of Al Nusrah’s attempt to regain the initiative in the Syrian war. With the help of Russia’s intervention last fall, Bashar al Assad’s regime stymied the advances of the Jaysh al Fath (“Army of Conquest”) coalition, which seized the northwestern province of Idlib earlier in the year. Jaysh al Fath, which included a number of rebel organizations, was co-founded by Al Nusrah and another al Qaeda-linked jihadist group, Ahrar al Sham.

In early February, Assad’s forces, backed by Russian airstrikes, Iranian-sponsored Shiite militias and Hezbollah, launched a major offensive in the province of Aleppo. Their aim was to recapture some of the towns and villages lost to various insurgents and to break the siege imposed on Shiite-majority towns in the northern part of the province. The Syrian government and its partners claimed some success in achieving these goals. Al Nusrah redeployed hundreds of jihadists to Aleppo in advance of the fight. [See LWJ report, Jihadists reinforce other rebels during key battle in Aleppo province.]

Propaganda photos of the three suicide bombings carried out near the Talat al-‘Iss hill:

16-04-01 Suicide bombing 1

16-04-01 Suicide bombing 2

16-04-01 Suicide bombing 3

16-04-01 Suicide bombing 4

Al Nusrah’s fighters prepare for the battle:

Fighters Preparing for Battle 1

Fighters Preparing for Battle 2

Fighters Preparing for Battle 3

Fighters Preparing for Battle 4

These two images appear to show an American Humvee being used in the battle. In the first image, the vehicle can be seen in the shadows on the left:

Might be American Humvee 1

Might be American Humvee 2

Al Nusrah manufactures some of its own rockets and arms in advance of the fight:

Nusrah Front Fighters preparing rockets 1

Nusrah Front Fighters preparing rockets 2

Nusrah Front Fighters preparing rockets 3

Nusrah Front Fighters preparing rockets 4

Images of the war booty captured:

War Spoils 1

War Spoils 2

War Spoils 3

War Spoils 4

War Spoils 5

War Spoils 6

War Spoils 8

War Spoils 9

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • Confused says:

    Man they are learning. I saw another GoPro vid shot from one of its T-62s (Rarely seen by any side, it being a black sheep only North Korea loves) and a BMP-1. Very effective tank tactics and support to the infantry. Unlike the SDF who sent their armor at Azaz with no infantry support and got it TOWed by the FSA Mountain Hawks, JaN kept its tanks well protected and did a good Mechanized Assault with as you pointed out, drone support. Just about everyone is using drones now for Operations.

    Oh and Kurdish FSA Faction Faylaq al-Sham is closing on el-Rai, IS defenses collapsed finally after two weeks of see-saw battles and they evacuated their families from el-Rai. Turkey is stepping up the support for Faylaq al-Sham and fresh recruits who came of age in Turkish Refugee Camps are heading to join them with Turkish Gear and training to call in Turkish Artillery Fires and Tank Fires from across the border.

    Faylaq al-Sham intends to grab Jarabulus and Manbij before the SDF Terrorists do, and then kick those goons back across the Euphrates where they and IS can kill each other for Raqqah and Deir Ezzor while they clear Afrin Canton of the SDF Terrorists and liberate Aleppo City from the Assad Regime’s baby killers. FSA has made it clear if Assad remains along with his baby killers, there will be no peace negotiations.


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