Some in Syrian opposition fear rebels miscalculated in Aleppo

The Los Angeles Times reports: In million-dollar apartments in a neighborhood of the city as yet unscathed, the battle for Aleppo plays out daily on flat-screen TVs. Amid imported sofas and abstract art, the revolution doesn’t seem so close.

But as the call for night prayers rang out from the minaret of the nearby mosque on a recent day, two loud explosions boomed.

“Do you hear that?” a father of seven asked, briefly looking away from the TV. “It’s like this every night.”

From the balcony, which on this night let in a little cool summer breeze, his family can occasionally see smoke rising above other Aleppo neighborhoods that are under attack by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The father is solidly opposed to Assad, but he fears the prospect of rebels who have filtered in from the suburbs seizing his neighborhood as they try to take Syria’s largest city and commercial hub.

“What [the rebels] did was wrong, coming in and forcing all these civilians to flee and live in schools. You came to protect civilians, but now you’re hurting them?” said the father, one of the city’s merchants. “It’s wrong what they did.”

As the fighting intensifies in a city once regarded as immune to the violence racking much of Syria, some opposition activists are concerned that those who have taken up arms against Assad have made a serious miscalculation here. They fear that the offensive is creating a humanitarian crisis they are ill-equipped to handle and turning many of those affected against the rebels.

“The military campaign for Aleppo came too, too early,” said Marcell Shehwaro, a dentistry graduate and a prominent activist. “Because people here didn’t see the government violence that would make them believe the Free Syrian Army was needed.”

Even now, weeks into the battle for Aleppo, the traffic of everyday routines still snarls roundabouts in safer parts of the city. Syria’s national flag still flies freely here, and the walls are devoid of antigovernment graffiti that festoon rebel-held areas.

Pricey restaurants in nice neighborhoods open — expectantly — every night.

Abdulaziz “Abu Jumuah” Salameh, who heads a coalition of dozens of militias called the Al Tawheed Brigade, acknowledged that the city may not have wanted the rebel offensive to begin so soon. But that didn’t matter: The revolution has its own timing.

“Other provinces finished their revolution, and Aleppo hadn’t started yet,” he said, speaking from his headquarters in Tal Rifaat, a town north of the city. “You could wait 100 years, and Aleppo still won’t be ready.”

Even as rebels continue to stream into Aleppo, there is bitter disagreement over whether they can win over its residents. [Continue reading…]

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