"THE SIEGE OF ALEPPO"
The sound artillery fire and attack aircraft fill the air as the sound of an Albatros Mig is heard circling above. Death on this day will come in the form of a free-falling bomb or worse, a missile strike like the one that ripped through the Dar Al-Shifa hospital on 11/21/2012. As the rebels go house-to-house in search of loyalist troops – each side monitoring the other through the sound of broken glass and debris cracking under their shoes - a rebel lieutenant moves up the stairs of an empty apartment block. The scent of decaying matter emanates from a pool of coagulated blood at the top of the staircase which judging by its size, the injury cost a man his life. The use of tanks force the rebel to take cover from shells that explode on the sides of the buildings around them. A mortar round erodes the cover provided to them by an apartment block on the verge of collapse. To neutralize the tank, a rocket propelled grenade needs to produce a direct hit onto the vulnerable sections of the armor - failure often means the dismemberment of the shooter. A rebel died and another was critically wounded while attempting to destroy a T-55 battle tank on Sept. 26. An Iraqi brother-in-arms summed up the day’s efforts: “This is not the time to mourn the death of your comrade. Honor him by continuing the fight.” There was no response. The smell of disinfectant, blood and burnt flesh engulfed the grain of every surface that was the Dar Al-Shifa hospital. Twelve people arrive at once as Dr. Osman approaches the twitching body of a boy with a fatal head wound. A man pumps oxygen into the lungs of a clinically dead 8-year-old girl injured by a mortar. At a different facility, smoke and vapor rises from the torso of a young man ripped apart by yet another mortar – this one landed next to a bread shop killing the two girls next to him - again the twitching bodies, again the pre-mortem spasms. The boy’s father collapses after recognizing his son through an ID card – he had no head.
Two rebel soldiers stand guard in the Karmel Jabl neighborhood of Aleppo as more than a dozen holes made by bullets and shrapnel peppered the tin wall behind them. The dust from more than one hundred days of shelling, bombing and firefights hung thick in the air around them as they took turns guarding their machine-gun nests. The precincts of Karmel Jabl and Al-Arqoob are strategically important because of their proximity to the main road that separates several of the main battlegrounds in the city, from one of the largest rebel-controlled regions in Aleppo. It is hard to know how many troops the regime has deployed along the Karmel Jabl / Al-Arqoob neighborhoods (considering that this region is one of many frontlines, most of them scattered along the Western and Southwestern sections of the city). Moreover, the popular belief is that if the regime ordered its infantry (most of it is largely composed of Sunni Muslims) to charge the rebels, a large number of the soldiers would defect to the opposition. For this reason, face-to-face combat is rare. Instead, the regime relies mostly on tanks, indirect fire (mortars and artillery), airplanes and snipers. Snipers can hold a line of several streets and can take weeks for the rebels to locate and neutralize them. Both sides (the Free Syria Army and the regime) rely heavily on snipers - the cat and mouse game of Aleppo's frontlines. Two regime snipers had closed several side streets keeping the rebel positions in check. As the Free Syria Army soldiers attempted to flank them (by punching holes on the walls of houses, both sides can travel several blocks from house to house without being seen by the opposing side - most importantly, without been spotted by the snipers), the regime forces reinforced their positions with tanks (which only move a few meters at a time, mostly under the cover of night in order to minimize their exposure to RPG's.