Upcoming Rebel unification in Eastern Aleppo?

al-Jabha al-Shamiya's Twitter logo. 

On 1 December, rebels in Eastern Aleppo announced an upcoming merger attempt following a loyalist offensive which managed to capture the northern third of opposition-held territory within the city. The new group will be known as "Jaysh Halab," or the Aleppo Army and a number of the prominent local factions have been named as participants. So far, however, the only group mentioned in all reports has been al-Jabha al-Shamiya, an Aleppo-based FSA group that descended from the now dissolved Liwa al-Tawhid. Abu Abdul al-Rahman Nour, a member of al-Jabha al-Shamiya, has reportedly been named Chief Commander, while Abu Bashir Amara has been given the title of Military Commander. 'Abu Bashir 'Amara (أبو بشير عمارة) is most likely a misspelling of 'Abu Bashir M'aara (أبو بشير معارة), who is a member of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki mentioned in reports about recent rebel infighting between Zenki and Fastaqim Kama Umirt. 'Abu Bashir's Twitter account can be found here. It states that he is the 'Military Commander of the Aleppo Operations Room,' but so far doesn't mention anything about 'Jaysh Halab.' Both these two men's names are mentioned in tweets from 14 November reporting that a 'Unified Military Command' had been created for Eastern Aleppo and that these two men were its commanders. 

Map of recent rebel losses around Aleppo. Source. 

The al-Maqalaat Telegram account, which largely reports on Islamist news from Syria, claimed that at least eleven opposition groups are involved in this creation of a single army. Those listed are: al-Jabha al-Shamiya, Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Faylaq al-Sham, Jaysh al-Mujahideen, Kataib al-Safwa, Kataib Abu Amarah, al-Furqat 13 (now part of the Free Idlib Army), and Furqat al-Sultan Murad. These factions are the most significant Islamist and FSA (with some overlap) groups in Eastern Aleppo. Missing from this list is Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra) other smaller jihadist groups (such as Jabhat Ansar al-Din), and local FSA group al-Fawj al-Awl.  

Whether or not this merger will become reality remains to be seen. It is possible that the coalition will end up existing on paper only, as has been the case with many such previous unification attempts in Syria (including one of the same name). It is also possible that this could also just result in a rebranding of al-Jabha al-Shamiya into 'Jaysh Halab.' What is known is that the Opposition of Eastern Aleppo is in an increasingly dire position as loyalist forces have continued to shrink the pocket since placing it under siege in July. Rebel infighting has not helped the situation. Just one month ago, Zenki, Furqat al-Abu Amarah, and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham essentially destroyed longtime Aleppo FSA mainstay Fastaqim Kama Umirt. This occurred a couple days into a rebel offensive designed to break the siege of Aleppo. Unlike the previous temporarily successful attempt in the summer, this early November assault featured very little activity from inside Eastern Aleppo itself, as some of the key opposition groups were embroiled in this inter-rebel conflict. If these factions manage to unify to some degree, they stand a better chance of surviving the ongoing loyalist offensive. 

A video made by a rebel supporter (likely from Aleppo), about Abu Bashir M'aata. Features footage he's in from both Zenki and al-Fawj al-Awl videos.

A screenshot of 'Abu Bashir's Twitter account. 'Abu Bashir is the fifth from the left, second from the right is Omar Salkhu, a local (and controversial) Zenki commander.


An update will come once more information comes out