Aleppo's Rebels Struggle to Run City Under Fire

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Efforts at trash removal by the council have been effective in some areas, and many streets appeared to be clean on a recent trip to Aleppo, but residents said some neighborhoods were better off than others.

Bread is another challenge for the council, which secured flour and provides some fuel to bakeries which sell subsidized bread. After severe shortages a few months ago, bread is now plentiful in markets but sells for SYP100 ($1.1) per bag, six-times the pre-war price. It costs around SYP30 if you buy directly from bakeries, where customers have to wait in long lines to get the cheaper price.

Zakri said these small gains gives some credibility to the council but concedes that armed groups, including the extremist Jabhat Al Nusra, are also providing humanitarian aid "that helps people survive" and therefore winning hearts and minds of residents.

"We need the experienced workers, those who maintained the infrastructure of the city, to come back to work," Zakri said. That would improve the lives of most residents and would allow the council to focus on actually governing Aleppo and forming a wider coalition that would include Christians and government supporters, he added.

Small and irregular money flows are also hampering the military effort to defeat the Syrian army in Aleppo, according to Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi, a former officer and a senior commander in Aleppo.

"We didn't expect that the battle for Aleppo would take this long," al-Okaidi said at one of his bases north of Aleppo. "We thought it would take less than a month, but we didn't get the necessary support."

Just as the local civilian councils are attempting to create a template for Syria's future government, defected officers and rebel leaders have established structures that could become the core for the national army, yet all these efforts haven't achieved their intended results.

"We are now organized and coordinate with civilian councils, but we have no support," al-Okaidi said. "Our resistance in Aleppo against such a strong army is a victory given our capabilities."

But for many residents of Aleppo and its countryside, living through dark and cold nights, mere survival is a hollow victory.

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