At the highest point in the village of Handarat, located 5 kilometers (3 miles) north of Aleppo, a Hezbollah flag still flies atop a water tank, even though the rebels took control of most of this strategic village March 9. The village sits on the road linking Turkey to Aleppo and is close to Alcastelo road, the last supply route for the rebels in Aleppo.

It was a decisive battle. The regime’s warplanes and helicopters did not leave the sky until the evening of March 10, the day Al-Monitor entered the village. The aircraft targeted the rebels’ rear supply lines in the areas of al-Mallah and Alcastelo, while mortar shells and fire from tanks rained down on the village.

The opposition forces’ attack on Handarat came as a surprise, as a new and bigger regime offensive on the Aleppo countryside was expected. The regime had first attacked the opposition Feb. 17, resulting in heavy regime losses. But it was the opposition — predominantly al-Jabha al-Shamia and Jabhat al-Nusra — that started the second round of the battle by attacking the regime. […]