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Terrorism & Security

In Aleppo, rebels brace for full force of Syria's Assad regime

With Syrian Army forces withdrawing from locations across the country and heading toward Aleppo, rebels there are preparing for a fierce battle for the strategic city that few expect them to win.

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“The foreign fighters, some of them are clearly drawn because they see this as … a jihad. So this is a magnet for jihadists who see this as a fight for Sunni Muslims,” Watson reported on CNN International’s “Amanpour” [last] night. “And that’s definitely cause for concern among some Syrian revolutionaries I know … who do not want an Islamist political agenda to be mixed in with their revolution.”A majority of Syrians are Sunnis, and Sunnis make up a bulk of the opposition to Syria’s regime, which is dominated by minority Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam. 

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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Rebel fighters are believed to hold about half of the city under their control, French reporter Adrien Jaulmes, who was traveling with rebels in Aleppo yesterday, told the BBC. Activists say the rebels are not expected to be able to hold Aleppo if faced with a full government assault, as has been the case in Damascus.

On the international stage, there is new talk of political transition in Syria after Arab countries announced plans yesterday to go to the United Nations General Assembly to seek approval of a resolution calling for a political transition and democratic government in Syria. This follows months of failed attempts by the UN Security Council to agree on how to halt the escalating conflict and worrying disclosures about the Assad regime's chemical and biological weapon stockpiles.

A resolution by the General Assembly would not be legally binding, but it is symbolic of the frustration many feel with the ongoing conflict in Syria, which has claimed between 18,000 and 19,000 lives since March 2011. The Arab countries' push for a resolution came after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed for a united response to the civil war during a speech in Bosnia yesterday.

"Quite simply, we must do better in seeing atrocities coming and telling it like it is. We cannot take refuge behind strong words and weak action," Mr. Ban said.

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