Thousands of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria in recent days, as forces loyal to President Assad prepare a major assault on rebel-held territory in Aleppo. The Syrian government, bolstered by the new arrivals and two weeks of intense Russian airstrikes on rebel positions, is determined to win back territory around the country’s biggest city, and once its commercial hub.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency, unnamed officials said that troops from Iran, along with Syrian soldiers and fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, were preparing an attack on the war-ravaged city.
“The big battle preparations in that area are clear,” said one of the officials. “There is a large mobilisation of the Syrian army… elite Hezbollah fighters, and thousands of Iranians who arrived in stages in recent days.” Some unconfirmed reports suggested that initial exchanges with rebel groups were already under way. Last week, the Syrian army launched another major offensive against rebels in Hama province.