Towards the end of October, rebel groups in the city of Aleppo, including ex-Al Qaeda affiliate, Fateh Al-Sham, launched an offensive aimed at breaking the government’s siege. The offensive began with heavy shelling, and the detonation of several SVBIEDS (car bombs.)
The Islamist rebels were initially able to advance, seizing the Al-Assad district. They also made progress in the 3000 Housing Project. Just a few days ago, pro-government forces launched a counter-attack, scoring significant gains early on. As of November, 11 2016, most, if not all rebel gains in Aleppo have been reversed. Noteworthily, these advancements were made with relatively little air support from the Russian Airforce (RUAF) or Syrian Airforce (SAAF.)
Pro-government forces demonstrated competency in recent fighting in Aleppo, suggesting that fundamental changes have been made. For example, it seems that they are now able to better defend against SVBIEDS (footage from recent fighting has shown several SVBIEDS being destroyed.)
While the Syrian Army has played a role in maintaining the siege, other militias have been pivotal to holding off the rebels, and retaking lost ground. Liwa Al Quds, a group comprised of Sunni Palestinians, has been active in the recent fighting. They have used their local knowledge (many of their fighters lived in nearby refugee camps) to good effect. Fighters from the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) have also assisted massively, with hundreds (potentially thousands) of fighters active in Aleppo. These militias are generally considered to be better motivated than regular SAA units, making them more effective in battle.
Despite the presence of Hezbollah troops in Aleppo, the group hasn’t been instrumental to Assad’s recent success Aleppo (certainly not as instrumental as they were to the success of the Battle of Yabrud or Qusayr.)
The situation is bleak for the rebels in Aleppo. They lost many fighters over the past few weeks, along with several tanks and BMPs. Russia’s fleet is reportedly set to begin attacks soon, using warplanes and Kalibr cruise missiles. This should soften up rebel defences, making it easier for Pro-Assad fighters to advance. Furthermore, it is speculated that the newly elected President of the USA, Donald Trump, will cut-off or reduce support for the rebels.
With dwindling morale, support and resources, their best option is to evacuate to Idlib province. If they continue to fight in Aleppo, they are simply postponing the inevitable, while forcing civilians to suffer needlessly.