News / Middle East

    Citing Betrayal, Some Syrian Rebels Withdraw From Front

    Rebel fighters of al-Jabha al-Shamiya (Levant Front) warm themselves around a fire near the justice palace in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 28, 2016.
    Rebel fighters of al-Jabha al-Shamiya (Levant Front) warm themselves around a fire near the justice palace in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 28, 2016.

    Syrian rebels in northern Syria have come under an intense weeklong bombing campaign by Russian warplanes.

    The insurgents, who also have been trying to hold on in the face of a coordinated ground offensive by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, have sheltered in tunnels or taken cover in blast craters. One young rebel fighter told VOA about his ordeal and why he and many other fighters are withdrawing from the front.

    For almost a quarter of his young life, 20-year-old Ahmad has been a fighter, but the fight has gone out of him. After enduring 400 airstrikes in four days in the villages of the northern countryside of Aleppo, where a devastating Syrian government offensive has been pressed, he withdrew from the frontline along with a hundred of his comrades.

    Low morale

    He said morale has dropped to rock bottom and militia commanders are trying to boost the confidence of the fighters. There is talk of forming a new Aleppo army, uniting the more moderate, less religious-based militias aligned to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

    FILE - People inspect the damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Sakhour neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 5, 2016.
    FILE - People inspect the damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held al-Sakhour neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 5, 2016.

    When the warplanes paused their bombing runs, there were skirmishes with combatants clashing just meters from each other.

    “The first day, the fight, it is easy. After that the second days and the third, it was very difficult. We lost a lot of people, a lot of friends, a lot of fighters,” he said.

    And the fourth day? The Russian warplanes razed everything in a three kilometer area. He told VOA that on the fourth day he was at the front, in a chain of villages north of the city of Aleppo, there were more than 400 airstrikes.

    He said the fighters and civilians alike hid in tunnels dug before the offensive and in bomb craters. He said they could feel and hear the percussion of blasts. And the heat as well.

    At one point he said they examined themselves quickly to make sure they had not been hit. Everything was being thrown at them — missiles, barrel bombs and sea mines, as well as vacuum and cluster bombs.

    He said they became expert at distinguishing from the impact what had been fired at them.

    Felt betrayed

    A short young man, with dark eyes and black hair, he hardly has the need to shave yet. He flicks a cigarette nervously as we talk. When I ask him why he left on the fourth day, he goes quiet. There is a long pause.

    He said that he and about another 100 fighters from the militia Nour al-Din al-Zenki withdrew not because of fear but because they felt they had been betrayed, let down by everybody who claimed to be the friends of Syria, meaning the U.S., the West and Gulf countries, as well as their own commanders. 

    He said the commanders of the Free Syrian Army militias and the hardline Islamist brigades, as well as al-Qaida’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, should have set their differences aside and unified. Now it may be too late.

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    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    February 08, 2016 9:28 PM
    Well done Russia. You are better Muslims Saudi Arabia who killed more than 350,000/= Syrians and same numbers become homeless.
    Saudi Arabia is working Israel Agenda. SA never supported Palestenions against Israel.
    We request Russia to increase your bombarment on SA sponsor Human Killer IS. SA spend Billions of Dollars to over through Asad. SA will accept IS Defeat easily that is why willing to send its troops to help IS.
    In Response

    by: Alice from: Canada
    February 09, 2016 11:53 PM
    First of all 'only' 250,000 Syrians from all sides have murdered each other not the 350,000 you claim (but I'm sure they will get to your number). Second of all Saudi Arabia has been a main source after Turkey is supporting ISIL in Syria. Qatar is third. And finally Israel could not careless who wins or loses in the civil war in Syria. Also if Israel is so bad to its Arabs why don't its 1.7millions Arab citizens leave? Arabs in Israel have the most civil rights in all of the Middle East and are economically better off than any Arab country.

    by: william li from: canada
    February 08, 2016 1:21 PM
    the earlier Russians kill all the terrorists the earlier those Syrian refugees dont need to flee to other countries!
    We should all support Assad and Russia!

    by: Raymond
    February 08, 2016 1:07 PM
    Pretty apparent, Assad helped Jihadis against the US forces, now Russia and Syria still leave ISIS alone and go after Moderates, fitting them all in the same pot is to justify the bloodbath of the biggest killing regime of the 21st century, the Assads.

    by: Alice from: Canada
    February 08, 2016 12:57 PM
    "There is talk of forming a new Aleppo army, uniting the more moderate, less religious-based militias aligned to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army." But they, Nour al-Din al-Zenki are not members of the Free Syrian Army because they are 'moderate'(?) Jihadists! This insurgent group has received US military aid yet they have a history of allying themselves to various other Jihadist rebels groups none of whom one could call moderate let alone liberal democrats. A plague on all their houses.

    by: Anonymous
    February 08, 2016 10:03 AM
    There's no "moderate rebel" in Syria, all of them are Islamist extremists, no matter what label you put on them. All of these "moderate rebels" want an Islamic country. Turkey was the one who originally staged a false flag operation of gassing Syrians to trigger a US attack on the Syrian government, which failed.

    Why is it again that the west is against Assad? Assad is the only one who protects all of the minorities including Christians, Yezidis and many many others. Assad is also helping the Kurds to defend themselves against ISIS. No one can replace Assad. Only extremists will fill his place, do we want this?

    Or it's Turkey who wants this.

    by: Anonymous
    February 08, 2016 10:02 AM
    A guide on who is who in Syria: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: A Single Sunni refugee in London, biased against the Syrian Government FSA, Nusra Front, Turkmen Brigades: b.s names, used by the western media to avoid using AQ, since all these groups are AQ. AQ in Syria is also called "moderate rebels", "opposition". The AQ (opposition) in the negotiations table, is misleadingly called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), where in fact it is a collection of AQ groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    The Kurds are not invited to negotiations, because Turkey opposed the Kurds presence in the negotiations. The Syrian Government, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and The Kurds: Fighting ISIS and AQ, not just ISIS, but ISIS and AQ (above-mentioned groups) Saudi Arabia and Turkey: support ISIS and AQ (the above-mentioned AQ groups and several more)

    The west, NATO and especially Britain and part of the US including presidential candidate Clinton: support Saudi Arabia and Turkey AQ in Syria are mostly foreign Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Tunisians, Saudis and Turks, imported by Turkey via Turkey into Syria.
    In Response

    by: Alice from: Canada
    February 08, 2016 1:18 PM
    No one mentions the tens of thousands of mercenaries involved on the side of the Assad regime. There are of course Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Russians and Lebanese Hezbollah. But there are also large numbers of Shea from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as others from all over the Shea Muslim world. It is not just the rebels that have attracted murderous thugs from all over the planet.

    by: pirooz from: iran
    February 08, 2016 9:38 AM
    this is the way russia is fighting terrorism . the us and its allies with their suspicious bombings and attacks have nothing to do with terrorism , their defence ministers just barking rather than acting and after long years iraq is stuck in its 0 point . thats is what the us and nato pursue other plans for fighting terrorism and that is nothing than eliminating syrian goverment, iran and russian federation . all of their campaign and fightings are fake in ordet to start world war 3 with mentioned countries plus north korea and china.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    February 08, 2016 9:20 AM
    Can anyone properly explain how picking a side in a religion that vows to destroy all infidels and the West (hate that terminology!) is ever prudent?

    by: Muhammad from: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
    February 08, 2016 8:04 AM
    ISIS and al-Qaida unite! America please help us
    In Response

    by: J J Why from: Washington, DC
    February 08, 2016 10:26 PM
    ALRIGHT! Help on the way, through Israel, just call our friend Netenyahu for the delivery

    by: drac
    February 08, 2016 7:19 AM
    Most rebel leaders began making money in 2013 -2014 fighting was not the driving factor anymore... Russia came in after Isis gained a few blocks within Damascus itself.

    Then Russia started to hit not only rank and file rebels but their leaders who felt entitled to spoils of war. ..this was as the man said a reality wake up call but it's too late they let their revolution fall victim to greed...soon the only player in town truly representing the opposition will be the jihadist.

    FSA have force the most part allowed themselves to get to comfortable with western governments and their high priced lunches.
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