Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — Syria, snipers, urban tactics, architecture ]

You remember the Wonderland Battlespace?

I wrote about it almost a year ago, and quoted:

the strategy of walking through walls, as Israeli architect Sharon Rotbard reminds us, is reinvented for every urban battle in response to local conditions

Okay, here it is again:

Clambering up the fallen concrete using a makeshift wooden ladder, the group enters a bombed-out building. Abu Thabet’s men have broken holes in the walls to create safe passages for them to move around in Salaheddine, out of the snipers’ sights.

“Now we are on a street parallel to Al-Albesa Street,” Abu Thabet explained. “On our right are snipers and on our left snipers. So we will go through these buildings to get to the Salaheddine roundabout.”

This building takes them into a maze of holes through deserted homes and apartment hallways back to back until they reach the roundabout that for now marks the frontline. The holes in the walls are tight and their edges jagged with broken brick. Rebels squeeze through, legs first, then arms, scratching their skin and turning their hair white with dust.

There is evidence of abandoned lives all around. A prayer mat lies on the floor of an empty bedroom. Another room has a cabinet filled with china tea cups and crystal glasses. A bird cage stands empty. In a kitchen, a jar of pickles sits half-eaten and rotting on the counter, flies circle around a pile of dishes in the sink. In one apartment, rebels use the master bedroom as a weapons depot, placing ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) on top of the red blanket covering a bed.

The hallways are dim and the zig-zag route, up stairs, through bedrooms, from apartment to apartment, makes it hard to keep track of how many buildings have been traversed. The last hole is through a large wooden closet, its back smashed through and behind it a gap two meters (six feet) wide, opening into an apartment filled with water bottles and bread. About five rebels are crammed in a hallway waiting for orders. In a small living room a candle lights up a sofa set and family pictures sitting on a small television.

“We are now at the Salaheddine roundabout. The new frontline of the battle of Aleppo,” announced Abu Thabet, walking out into the bright street. “The army is just behind this building.”

Hadeel Al Shalchi, Syrian rebels carve paths through buildings to avoid snipers, Aleppo, Aug 11 2012 — h/t Caitlin Fitz Gerald

This time the buildings were abandoned: they aren’t always.