Outsider bogged down in protracted battle for Aleppo

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She went back inside and defected lieutenant, Ahmed Saadeen, 24, burst into complaints about why the city was taking so long to capture.

“The problem in Aleppo is the people. It’s as if they don’t care. For one month I haven’t been home on leave, so how can they celebrate (the recent Muslim holiday of) Eid while people are dying?” he said.

Experts say the battle for Aleppo will be protracted given the rebels’ shortage of heavy weapons and with the regime keen to avoid the international condemnation that would come from inflicting major massacres.

Marwa Daoudy, a lecturer in international relations at Oxford University, says Aleppo reflects the stalemate in the rest of the country, but that its urban elites set it apart from disadvantaged towns easily captured by the rebels.

The merchant class, Christians and Muslims, have prospered since the economic reforms of 2005, she said.

Although they have become much more critical of the regime, many people are nervous about insecurity and the future as the Islamist agenda promoted by some of the rebel groups has hijacked the uprising.

“Clearly the basis for the FSA is very much in the poorer areas and so far in the last year and a half the heart of Aleppo had been very much outside the conflict except protests at the university,” Daoudy told AFP.

“On the Christian side, they’re worried about the post-Assad period in terms of the treatment of minorities, but the Sunnis are divided.

“People fear now for their security and the future of the country. People also don't know who some of the insurgents are and what their agenda is,” she said.

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