Notes on Current Developments in Syria: January 11, 2014

The battle between Islamist rebel groups and Al-Qaeda’s affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is intensifying, but there is more going on than the increasing number of casualties and bodies of the injured piling up in the hospital.

The way the battle is unfolding indicates that carving up territories is what’s stake at this stage than achieving a straight out victory of one side over the other. This might not have been the intention at the beginning, but this is where things seem to be heading at this stage on account of the logistics involved, the actual military capabilities of each side, and the involvement of the regime in the matter, which, as expected, is working out in favor of ISIS, in the city of Elbab north of Aleppo, for instance, the regime resumed bombardment of the city as soon as ISIS was kicked out, allowing ISIS troops to halt their retreat, regroup and lay siege to the city. This may not be highlighted by the media at this stage, but this is what activists on the ground are reporting.

In the town of Saraqib in the Idlib Province, ISIS rebels are using car bombings to target opponents.

In Raqqah City, activists on the ground report that the city has fallen back under the control of ISIS after fighters belonging to Ahrar Al-Sham left the city, but not after raiding the central bank and emptying out its coffers. In fact, at this stage, positions from which ISIS are driven out tend to fall under the control of Jabhat Al-Nusra or Ahrar Al-Sham, in exchange, the latter seem willing to ceded position held in other areas, including Raqqah and Aleppo to ISIS. Other groups, especially those affiliated with FSA, seem to be outwitted at this stage. ISIS, JAN and ASH are attempting to play this situation to their advantage and are succeeding.

Meanwhile, the Syrian version of the Hunger Games continues to unfold, with more people dying of starvation in Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, including of course children and the elderly. Elsewhere, an attempt by rebels to break through the siege of Old Homs neighborhoods and deliver food supplies to their besieged families was foiled when the regime seems to have received intelligence on the whereabouts of the specific gathering point for rebels lead to aerial strikes that left over 60 rebel dead.

For their part, Syria’s myriad political opposition groups persist in their bickering, with recent elections within the National Coalition threatening the unity of the group, and a recent conference in Cordoba failing to provide agreement in regard to opposition representation in Geneva 2.