“We’re trying to cut the supply lines for the regime inside the city,” says Abu Tawfik, a commander of Liwa Tawheed, one of the largest FSA units now fighting inside Aleppo. “The airport is the most important part of the city now. If we can control the airport, we can cut their supplies and win the war here.”
The road connecting Aleppo and Damascus is already under rebel control, which means that the regime forces are now almost entirely dependent on resupplying their troops by air. According to FSA fighters, most of the regime forces' supplies for Aleppo Province are brought to the airport, where they are picked up by helicopter and delivered to the surrounding bases.
The airport is now surrounded on three sides by FSA fighters, but they have so far been unable to capture one area near the airport that is populated by Assad loyalists. Fighting is likely to drag on there for some time to come.
“There’s progress, but we don’t want to go inside the airport and hold it because there is a lot of open ground. We’re just trying to keep it under siege. If we take it, the regime will destroy it and we don’t want to destroy our infrastructure.” says Abu Hamdu, deputy commander of Al Khatab, an FSA unit now fighting at the airport.
Targeting the airport
Still, Mr. Hamdu says that the FSA is now in a position where it can begin shooting down supply planes landing at the airport. The group has long bemoaned its lack of anti-aircraft weapons, but it does possess heavy caliber machine guns that can be effectively used against slow moving cargo planes as they take off and land, if not fighter jets.
Until now, the group has hesitated to shoot at planes because it says the Army has been using civilian passenger planes to deliver supplies and the group does not want to inadvertently shoot down a plane full of civilians. They’ve now started to warn all civilians to avoid the airport at all costs.
“We don’t know when, but soon we will start targeting everything that moves inside the airport,” says Hamdu.