A coalition of Islamist factions within northern Syria, led by al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al=Nusra, have launched what is being called a “massive” offensive against the major north Syrian city of Aleppo, saying they intend to “liberate” the city and impose Sharia law throughout.
Aleppo is historically Syria’s industrial and financial capital, but rebels began attacking the city in mid-2012. Though both sides predicted at the time the battle would be decisive in the war, and over in a matter of days, it is ongoing three years later, with the rebels and military both holding significant territory.
With al-Qaeda taking Idlib and expanding its holdings in the western part of Aleppo Province, they are now hoping to insinuate themselves into the battle for the city. ISIS has similarly been advancing from the east, and this could rapidly become a four-way fight.
Whether anyone has the forces to actually win the fight now is unclear, though al-Qaeda and its friends pounded government-held districts with hundreds of rockets today, suggesting their own involvement is going to be significant indeed.
The even bigger question is how valuable Aleppo is anymore. The city was once hugely important, arguably the most important in the nation, but years of fighting have managed everything greatly, and it’s not clear there is much left to conquer.
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