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Latest update : 2013-10-08

Syria: On the frontline with the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo

Rebels and regime forces are locked into a brutal battle for control of Aleppo, and FRANCE 24 reporters managed to enter northern Syria’s main city to meet fighters with the Free Syrian Army.

In the small town of Kilis on the Turkish-Syrian border, we have to wait several days for the green light from our fixers to go “across”. One morning at dawn, the signal is given.

The border is porous and surprisingly easy to cross. We meet other journalists, and even foreign fighters who are off to join the jihad in Syria.

On the other side, our four "hosts" are waiting for us. They are all heavily armed and driving a battered old black BMW sporting a Free Syrian Army (FSA) flag. How discreet…

The trip to Aleppo takes no more than an hour and the whole area supposed to be under the control of the FSA, but it remains dangerous. Ambushes involving Bashar al-Assad’s forces are commonplace. Our driver tells us that the worst thing - while driving with the window down and music blaring - is helicopter attacks. "But don’t worry, I always hear them arriving from a distance”, he states confidently. We remain sceptical ...

Our driver explains that at his signal we will have to leave everything in the car and jump onto the nearest embankment.

Welcome to Syria…

On arrival in Aleppo, we discover a city divided into factions. Each group occupies a neighbourhood: rebel fighters, regime forces, Kurds, Islamists, foreign fighters, Sunni locals...

In some places, life has returned to normal. We can see markets filled with foodstuffs and children playing football, while only two miles away, the war rages on.

In the old town which is now reduced to a pile of rubble, at the heart of the old souk once listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, we meet Abdul Maleck. This 29-year-old Sunni local commands a group of 30 fighters. This local commander will be our guide in war torn Aleppo...

By Manolo d'ARTHUYS

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