Syrian rebels fight on for Aleppo despite lack of local support

The Guardian reports: More than a month into the battle for Aleppo, the rebels who seized control of much of the city sense that its residents do not yet fully support them. Opposition fighters – around 3,000 of them – are almost the only people moving around the eastern half that the Free Syrian Army now controls. The small numbers of non-fighters who remain seem to pay them little heed. Few seem openly welcoming.

“Yes it’s true,” said Sheikh Tawfik Abu Sleiman, a rebel commander sitting on the ground floor of his fourth new headquarters – the other three were bombed. “Around 70% of Aleppo city is with the regime. It has always been that way. The countryside is with us and the city is with them. We are saying that we will only be here as long as it takes to get the job done, to get rid of the Assads. After that, we will leave and they can build the city that they want.”

As the sun set on the first day of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan on Sunday, Sheikh Abu Sleiman visited a mosque in the north of the city and took up the microphone. “I told them that we understand their suffering,” he said. “We are sensitive to their needs and we know that this has been a major disruption. And that when we finish, Aleppo is theirs.” The sheikh’s words echoed from a minaret in a rebel-held district across residential streets long since deserted.

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