Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Fourteen rebel factions in Aleppo, in the north of Syria, are seeking to form a joint military command to coordinate attacks against Syrian government forces, local opposition sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Efforts to unify rebel ranks in the eastern and northern parts of Aleppo began three months ago with the aim of “preventing the regime from imposing a siege on the city and confronting it within a unified military framework and joint operations room,” head of Aleppo’s Revolutionary Command Council Yasser Al-Najjar told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Only seven rebel factions have backed integration efforts so far despite calls for all local forces to join, Najjar said.
“These factions have the right to join and will have an effective role in helping the city and defending its neighborhoods,” the opposition official added.
Aleppo, previously a major Syrian economic and industrial hub, remains divided between government forces and moderate Islamist factions loosely affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Anti-government forces hold more than 50 percent of the city, mainly its eastern and southern neighborhoods.
The new deal excludes groups affiliated with Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria.
The lack of clear vision regarding the tasks and distribution of forces in Aleppo remains one of the major obstacles to the initiative to form a joint military command, Najjar told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The initiative is the latest in a series of efforts to unify opposition ranks as fears grow of a government-imposed siege on rebel-held areas.
Opposition Syrian National Council official Hassan Al-Na’na’ claimed that a statement announcing the new Aleppo joint military command will be released within the next few days. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the establishment of this new military body comes as part of a previous initiative proposed by some 100 rebel factions from across the country.
Ahrar Al-Sham, Liwa Tawhid, the Nour Eddin Zinki battalion—all operating under the Islamic Front—among others have signed the statement announcing a joint Aleppo military command, Na’na said.
The Syrian National Council official denied that the deal was related to efforts by UN Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to secure local truces between opposition forces and the Assad regime, including a specific proposal for an Aleppo ceasefire.
A provincial council, consisting of 16 members, was elected on Thursday to run the civilian affairs of the rebel-held areas in Aleppo, Na’na’ added.