Syrian government forces capture atleast three new villages east of Khanaser

By Oliviero Reusser (Twitter)

In a new offensive launched by Syrian government forces and their allies in the southern Aleppo governorate, atleast three new villages have been captured.

The names of the three new villages are Shuraymah, al-Atshanah and Rasem Askar. These locations are about 8km northeast of the town of Khanasir, a crucial strategic position guarding the Ithriya-Khanssir highway, which connects the city of Aleppo with the government areas in Damascus, Homs and Hama, central Syria. These towns were already captured about 5 months ago during an offensive launched in the area, but were later recaptured by ISIS, which wants to stay close to the highway in order to harass government troops traveling to Aleppo, aswell as keeping open a trading route with the opposition factions operating on the other side of the government-held highway. It is hard to monitor the whole highway perfectly and it is very likely there is some trading and smuggling going on in these areas. 

Situation east of Khansir after capture of three new villages. Via globaleventmap.org

Situation east of Khansir after capture of three new villages. Via globaleventmap.org

It is unclear which government troops and allied militias are present on this front. It is however clear that by advancing in this area, the government wants to increase the buffer zone around Khanssir and eventually capture all of the ISIS-held areas in Mount Shubayt, fully ending their presence in all of Aleppo province and closing a forming ISIS pocket which would free up a lot of government soldiers to be deployed to other fronts.