Life With Syria’s Rebels in a Cold and Cunning War
TAL RIFAAT, Syria — Abdul Hakim Yasin, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, lurched his pickup truck to a stop inside the captured residential compound he uses as his guerrilla base.
His fighters had been waiting for orders for a predawn attack on an army checkpoint at the entrance to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The men had been issued ammunition and had said their prayers. Their truck bomb was almost prepared.
Now the commander had a surprise. Minutes earlier, his father, who had been arrested by the army at the same checkpoint in July, had called to say his jailers had released him. He needed a ride out of Aleppo, fast.
“God is great!” the men shouted. They climbed onto trucks, loaded weapons and accelerated away, barreling through darkness on nearly deserted roads toward a city under siege, to reclaim one of their own.
During five days last week, Mr. Yasin and his group, the Lions of Tawhid, allowed two journalists from The New York Times to live and travel beside them as they fought their part in the war to unseat President Bashar al-Assad . . .
While broad extrapolations are difficult to glean from one fighting group in a complex society, the activities and personal stories of these men, a mix of civilians who took up arms and dozens of army defectors who joined them, offers a fine-grained look of the uprising, and the momentum and guerrilla energy it has attained.
From there Chivers provides a fine-grained – and fine, in a Hemingwayesque sense – encyclopedic narrative of the uprising against Assad, fueled by ordinary Syrians driven to extraordinary measures.
Climactic conclusion of one battle in Aleppo:
Mr. Yasin woke before sunset. He was not fasting during Ramadan, so he ate quickly and left for a meeting with other commanders. He returned by darkness with orders and organized his fighters into teams. His fighters in turn distributed ammunition and formed a convoy that soon snaked through Aleppo, toward a city block ablaze.
There, they said, another rebel unit had ambushed a government convoy, disabling vehicles and trapping many soldiers. Mr. Yasin’s fighters were to relieve the other rebels and cut off one possible avenue of the soldiers’ escape.
As they approached, gunfire ripped by. The convoy turned into an industrial compound, and the fighters hopped off the trucks, parking them against the warehouses, and fanned out.
Mr. Yasin watched, silhouetted by the orange blaze. His enemies, trapped nearby, lobbed mortar rounds at the compound. Each exploded with crunching blasts. He did not flinch.
Read the rest yourselves. Seriously.