Offensive in Aleppo Governorate's northern countryside
In early February 2016, backed by Russian and Syrian air force airstrikes, the 4th Mechanized Division – in close coordination with Hezbollah, the National Defense Forces (NDF), Kata'eb Hezbollah, and Harakat Al-Nujaba – launched an offensive in Aleppo Governorate's northern countryside, which eventually broke the three-year siege of Nubl and Al-Zahraa and cut off the rebels' main supply route from Turkey. According to a senior, non-Syrian security source close to Damascus, Iranian fighters played a crucial role in the conflict. "Qassem Soleimani is there in the same area", he said. In December 2016, new photos emerged of Soleimani at the Citadel of Aleppo, though the exact date of the photos is unknown.