On August 16, the militant operations room in the southwestern Aleppo countryside declared the villages of Banes, Birnah, al-Ottomania, Hwair al-Eis, Tell Bajir, Judiydah, Zummar and Jizrea a “military zone” and ordered civilians there to evacuate their homes within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is massing hundreds of its fighters in the southwestern Aleppo countryside. The UK-based monitoring group added that a large convoy of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) carrying several heavy weapons has arrived in the area.
Some Syrian opposition activists claimed that HTS has deployed its force to deter the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL). However, other activists believe that HTS, the TIP and the NFL may be planning to launch a preemptive attack on the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in southwestern Aleppo.
In late 2016, HTS and its allies launched a similar preemptive attack on the SAA in the city of Aleppo. However, the SAA repelled the attack and neutralized most of HTS’s units within a few weeks and then liberated eastern Aleppo. This scenario may repeat itself in southwestern Aleppo.