Battle for Aleppo enters third week as Syrian rebels hold on
Syrian rebel forces are believed to be far outgunned by the Army, but they've so far held off regime efforts to overrun the city.
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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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Syrian rebels gained ground today near Aleppo when they turned a captured tank against a Syrian Army airbase. As fighting nears the end of its second week in Syria’s largest city, this increase in rebel artillery could raise morale for a group that is believed to be far outgunned by military forces.
“We hit the airport using a tank that we captured from the Assad army. We attacked the airport a few times but we have decided to retreat at this time," Abu Ali, a rebel fighter, told Reuters.
The United Nations observer mission in Syria says it is concerned about escalating violence in Aleppo, citing the use of jets by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the addition of heavier weaponry to the rebels’ cache. Earlier this week NBC News reported that the Free Syrian Army rebel forces acquired nearly 25 surface-to-air missiles via Turkey.
“The last 72 hours saw a significant increase in the level of violence,” said Sausan Ghosheh, UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) spokesman in Damascus.
Reuters reports that the rebels say they have taken control of three police stations this week as they try to consolidate their hold on key areas of Aleppo. They have been met by heavily armed government forces who are working to drive the rebels out of the city. Yesterday a statement by President Assad said the battle for Aleppo will determine the “destiny of our Homeland.”
Cell phone service was reportedly cut off yesterday evening, prompting speculation that the military is planning to ratchet up its offensive. But it could also be an effort to hinder one of the rebels' less traditional strategies for victory: winning the media war.
The Monitor’s Scott Peterson was in Aleppo earlier in the week, where he observed the important role mobile phones and cameras are playing in the Syrian conflict.
This fight has been defined in Syria by endless images shot by mobile phone and volunteer videographers who know the importance of winning the media war.
Every fighter seems to have at least one mobile phone, used to speak with families, Skype girlfriends, and even advise Syrian soldiers how to defect to the opposition. Some note the difference a generation can make to the fate of their challenge against the government – and providing video evidence of atrocities and war crimes that are corroding the legitimacy of the regime.
Civilians are increasingly caught in the middle of the fighting, Ms. Ghosheh of the UN observer mission said. Nearly 200,000 people are believed to have fled Aleppo since fighting began July 20. According to the UN, 3 million Syrians are in need of food aid, and half of them will need “urgent and immediate” assistance in the next three to six months.