Friday, August 10, 2012

Who will come out on top?: The rebels are a diverse bunch who are co-operating—for the time being

    Friday, August 10, 2012   No comments

KINGS make war, but wars also make kings. A year ago, when Syrian government troops first tried to enter Jebel Zawiya, a region south-west of Aleppo where rugged hills enfold 33 villages, a handyman called Jamal Marouf gathered seven men and set off to fight the intruders. Now he claims to command 7,000 fighters, whose reach stretches over much of rural Idleb province, from Turkey’s border to Hama in the south. Perhaps to match their growing ambition, Mr Marouf’s “Martyrs of Jebel Zawiya” recently changed their brigade’s name to “Martyrs of Syria”.

The Sunni farmers who grow olives, figs and cherries have long resented the rule of the Assads and their Alawite co-religionists. Since the uprising took off a year ago, the Syrian army has wreaked havoc in Jebel Zawiya, as elsewhere in Sunni-populated regions. But the growing cost of fighting the tenacious rebels, combined with the need to reinforce strained government troops in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city that is now locked in a furious battle, has pushed the army out of the area. Last month it quit, leaving just a few isolated outposts from which it lobs shells into rebellious villages.


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