As a regime advance around Aleppo city threatens to deal a devastating strategic and moral blow to the Syrian revolution, residents of rebel-held neighborhoods organized protests Wednesday demanding that opposition groups unite while calling for the fall of those that refuse.
Unifying rebel groups for the sake of halting the regime’s advance, as well as IS and Syrian Democratic Force’s incursions into rebel territory in northern Aleppo, is now a life-or-death decision, Mundhir al-Halabi, a citizen journalist in Aleppo city, told Syria Direct Thursday.
“The fate of rebels in Aleppo will be the same [regardless of their affiliation]: either fighting till the death in defense of their land and civilians, or successfully breaking the siege in the province,” said al-Halabi.
For weeks, pro-opposition activists have been exerting pressure on rebel groups in Aleppo and its northern countryside, to no avail, to unite under the Free Syrian Army banner. The most powerful groups in north Aleppo are the FSA-affiliated al-Jabha a-Shamiya—a coalition of rebel brigades—in addition to Harakat Nur e-Din a-Zinki, and Ahrar a-Sham. Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat a-Nusra also has troops inside Aleppo city.
Wednesday’s protest was not the first call for rebels to work together to defeat the larger threat of the regime. Opposition media reported on a group of unnamed activists who released an announcement on February 6 calling for the creation of an “Aleppo Army” including the above-mentioned rebel factions. That did not happen.
On Wednesday, residents took to the streets to demand the resignation of the commanders of Jabhat a-Nusra, al-Jabha a-Shamiya and Nur a-Din a-Zinki, reported pro-opposition al-Hal a-Souri Wednesday.
The Syrian army and its allies made unprecedented gains in the northern Aleppo countryside last week, when it broke the four-year-long rebel siege on the Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahraa, approximately 29km southwest of the Bab al-Salama border. The result of these maneuvers is that the regime has cut off supply lines into rebel-held areas of Aleppo city and isolated rebels in the northern countryside.
Regime forces are now continuing their advance north into the 25km stretch of land between Nubl and Zahraa and the city of Azaz, just south of Bab al-Salama.
The February 6 announcement warned that any brigade that refused to form a united Aleppo army would be considered “a traitor to the revolution and to its martyrs’ blood.”
– Photo courtesy of Halab News Photograph.