The jihadist-led Jaish al Fatah broke the siege of the rebel-held eastern Aleppo on Saturday following a week-long battle. The Iranian media outlet Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported yesterday on the deployments of IRGC-backed Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba to the southern area of Aleppo. State media have also acknowledged the fatalities of two Iranians since Saturday, including a special forces officer.
Lebanese Hezbollah’s elite Radwan Battalion entered the Hamdaniyeh area in western Aleppo to retake the Ramouseh area in the southwest, according to Fars. Ramouseh is the opposition’s access point to Aleppo.
The Iranian outlet followed up with a report shortly afterwards quoting a Nujaba official that 2,000 of the militia’s highly trained forces have arrived in Aleppo. These forces have participated in “many operations liberating areas” of Aleppo province, according to Fars.
Nujaba’s spokesman has said that it and Hezbollah “are the twins of resistance that can never be loosened or separated.” Both groups have acknowledged fatalities, including field commanders, during the latest battle for Aleppo.
Iranian state outlets on Monday announced the death of an IRGC special forces officer, Major Ali Nazari, deputy commander of the Hamzeh Battalion (Saberin unit) of the 33rd al-Mahdi Airborne Brigade stationed in Jahrom County, Shiraz province. He is the county’s sixth confirmed fatality in Syria. Seyyed Qolamhossein Mousavi’s death was announced on Sunday, and Iran has announced the deaths of eight operatives in Aleppo since the rebels launched their offensive last week.
The latest deployment and fatality announcements follow a purported audio tape of a Hezbollah fighter recorded over the weekend in southwest Aleppo that was leaked online on Sunday, in which the fighter complained that “they (pro-regime fighters) all left us, the Iranians, Afghans, and Syrians… all of them left us,” according to Lebanon NOW. “We are like dummies, we don’t know anything, we are fighting alone,” he said, slamming the performance of pro-regime fighters during the battle. The fighter added that even when regime forces counterattacked against Jaish al Fatah insurgents to retake positions, they would “lose it in the night” or the following morning. He warned that rebel forces persisted despite “taking a lot of casualties,” adding that “they are in good shape, [while] the [Syrian] army disintegrated.”
The leaked tape is consistent with the accounts of a pro-opposition Syrian journalist, who told Business Insider that pro-regime lines in southwest Aleppo collapsed “much faster than anyone expected” after the initial defense lines fell to advancing forces following fierce combat.
Raging since 2012, Aleppo is strategically important for all the players involved in the Syrian war. The IRGC and its proxies have stepped up the deployment of assets in the province since the Russian military intervention in Syria in October.
[Update: IRGC confirms Ali Nazari’s rank as Major].