After finishing years of fighting in the hugely important north Syrian city of Aleppo in December, the Syrian government has looked to solidify its control over the surrounding area in recent months, seizing over 150 towns and villages in the vicinity in the period that followed.
This effort continues today, with Syrian forces, backed by Hezbollah and Russian artillery, capturing another 9 villages in the area around Deir Hafer, a town east of Aleppo and south of Manbij. ISIS is said to retain Deir Hafer itself, and also has tentative control over nearby al-Jarrah airbase, though that has exchanged hands a few times recently.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the villages became the target after the most recent attempt to push into al-Jarrah began to fail. This appears in keeping with the government’s recent strategy of always trying to increase gains, even if they aren’t necessarily the gains initially sought.
This area, the southeastern part of Aleppo Province, appears effectively to be contested just between Syrian forces and ISIS, with Syrian government control of the area south of al-Bab preventing Turkey from launching any expansions further south, and Kurdish forces further east focusing on Raqqa.