18 Aug

Rebels carve out large enclave in north Syria

center_img New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Top Stories Sponsored Stories At the center sit the charred shells of the police station and city hall, which troops occupied in February. For months, local rebels attacked their positions and tried to cut their supply lines. By the time the army left in June, the city was destroyed and deserted.When asked how many of the town’s 25,000 residents had returned since its “liberation,” the head of Atarib’s military council laughed.“If you put them all in the back of a semi-truck, there’d still be space,” said Obeid Ahmed Obeid. Others guessed it was a few hundred.Nearby, Fatum Obeid, a 50-year-old widow, wandered through the wreckage of her simple home, asking God to destroy Assad and his mother.Two of her sons had been killed in the uprising. One returned from his mandatory military service in a body bag with no explanation. Another was shot dead by a government sniper before she and other residents fled to nearby villages.“We’d sit and watch the troops come, then hear the booms and see the smoke,” she said.Town leaders have formed military and civil councils and opened a prison that holds some 15 people.The army still shells the town daily, keeping residents away, and making some wonder how free they are. “Religion is the basis of everything for us,” said Abdel-Aziz Salameh, head of a “revolutionary council” that coordinates various rebel factions in Aleppo and the nearby countryside. “It is the driving force of the revolution.”Salameh spoke from the basement of the police station in Tal Rifat, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Aleppo, now the headquarters of one of Syria’s largest rebel groupings, the Islamist Brigade of Unification.Fighter jets screeched overhead, and the dull booms of shelling punctuated the conversation.“May God curse you,” the 46-year-old honey distributor said, looking up as the lights flickered.The brigade, formed last month, now boasts more than 7,000 fighters, Salameh said, bringing together some of the armed factions in the Aleppo region that cropped up as army recruits defected and locals took up arms. Before a new group can join, it must agree not to target civilians or their property and to bring all prisoners to one of the brigade’s two prisons, which now house some 500 captives.This is to prevent fighters from settling personal scores or kidnapping wealthy people for ransom, Salameh said.last_img read more