Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rebel commander inside Aleppo: 'God is with us and so are the people'

Coming days likely to be decisive as Syria army reinforcements rumoured to be making their way towards city

Martin Chulov in Aleppo, Sunday 5 August 2012

".....Aleppo is now undeniably a city at war. Crippling petrol shortages have whittled traffic flow by around 90%; festering garbage bags are now teaming so high that they resemble road blocks and the few people who brave the city's foreboding streets do so with one eye to the ground and the other tilted towards the ever present attack helicopter as it circles.

The rigid order that has helped make this city a tenant of regime power for more than four decades is no more – for now. Most police stations have been overrun, their vehicles are now being used to ferry fighters to one of two front lines – a small enclave called Sarhour near the centre of the city.

The government hospital in the east of the city, which was commandeered by regime forces until last week is now in rebel hands. So too part of the central city near the citadel, which has towered above this ancient city throughout the ages and appeared resolute under floodlights as fighting raged nearby on Saturday night.....

"We have many more weapons than we used to have," he said. "The regime is running away and they are tired, so tired. Even more than us. I would say that of the force they are bringing to fight us, only 20% are brave and committed to battle.

"We had around 120 defectors this morning alone.".....

Back in his office, he said: "We have anti-aircraft rockets, you know. We will use them when the time is right. They can't win, because they are not fighting for the right reasons. God is with us and so are the people."

The latter remains to be seen. Aleppo locals seem yet to fully embrace the rebel army, preferring to wait to see who can fill the vacuum.

Abu Sleiman is trying to change that by preparing a letter for locals calling for volunteers to help with civic services and explaining what role the new sheriff in town intends to play....."

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