Kilo: Syrian opposition will fight on despite Aleppo losses

Kilo: Syrian opposition will fight on despite Aleppo losses
Syrian opposition leaders are still coming to terms with a rebel rout in Aleppo, and admit the situation in the city looks bleak.
3 min read
28 November, 2016
Aleppo is in a state of confusion and fear [AFP]

Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham offered a sombre reaction to the regime's breakthrough in Aleppo on Monday, which effectively cut the opposition's enclave in two.

The group shared a section of the Quran to provide strength and solace to supporters on Twitter, as chaos, terror and hoplessness engulfed East Aleppo.

"Obey Allah and His Messenger. Do not fight each other or you will fail and lose your strength. Be patient," it read.

Rebel retreat

This message to followers comes as regime fighters stormed East Aleppo, capturing all of its northern neighbourhoods.

Some districts were said to be given up to Kurdish forces willingly to prevent regime capture and minimise potential harm to civilians. In other areas it appeared to be a full-scale rout.

Michel Kilo, a leading figure in the Syrian opposition, says it is unclear how bad the position for the rebels actually is - but the revolution in Aleppo has suffered a major blow.

"The situation is very confused, it changes from hour-to-hour and it is difficult to understand the developments on the ground," he said.

"The rebels will combat the regime until the end. One [rebel leader] said 'we will fight from building to building' and they won't surrender to the regime."

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Rebel fighters based in the surrounding Aleppo countryside and Idlib are unable to help due to military cover from Russian aircraft, he said.

Inside East Aleppo, residents are living in a state of terror and chaos following the surprise retreat of rebels.

Many residents have been hiding in basements and mosques after days of massive bombing ahead of the regime ground advance.

Some fled to neighbouring districts to escape the punishing air raids on the area.

Chlorine gas, cluster bombs and "bunker busters" have all been used in the regime assault with neighbourhoods including al-Shaar left completely shattered.

Regime media meanwhile claimed that the Syrian airforce had only targeted a meeting of the Ahrar al-Sham leadership.


Some have blamed the fall of parts of Aleppo to infighting in the rebel leadership during a critical time for the rebels.

Bassam al-Kuwatli, managing director of the Research and Management Team - a research group that conducts opinion polls in opposition areas - believes that, despite the setback, the rebels will continue to resist.

"Inner conflicts contributed to recent losses but even without this they could not hold on, due to the Russian air force, regime army, Shia militias and being besieged with no access to food," he said.

The situation is very confused, it changes from hour-to-hour and it is difficult to understand the developments on the ground.
- Michel Kilo

White Helmets rescue teams announced they had been overwhelmed by casualties and were effectively suspending operations due to a lack of fuel and vehicles to assist civilian casualties.

Despite the loss of the northern territories of Aleppo, it appears that most rebels managed to escape regime encirclement and will be able to provide resistance to regime forces trying to take the southern section.

"The rebels with the population in the northern part of East Aleppo were almost cut off from the rest of the area, so they had to retreat to minimise loses," said Kuwatli.

But ultimately - without international assistance - their battle looks doomed.

"They can hold on for a month or two if they are lucky. They don't have agricultural land, so they can be starved easily."