Ill-advised targeting

As promised, a Syrian rebel militia leader fired a wave of rockets and mortar bombs at DamascusSunday.

By the late afternoon, Zahran Alloush, the head of the Islam Army, announced that he was suspending until further notice his attempt to impose a daytime “curfew” on Damascus residents.

In the end, seven people in the capital were killed in the barrage, which was – according to Alloush – a response to recent “massacres” carried out by regime aircraft in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus.

The episode demonstrates how Syria’s armed opposition continues to make the same mistakes, nearly four years into the country’s descent into chaos, by adopting the same tactics as the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, namely the indiscriminate bombing of civilian-populated areas.

Naturally, Alloush and others like him make the claim that they are targeting regime positions, such as military and security installations. But military developments over the weekend in Syria are instructive.

In Deraa province, no one spoke of civilian casualties when rebel groups overran the Brigade 82 complex in the town of Sheikh Miskeen, as it was a purely military target.

But in a capital city of several million people, firing rockets and other projectiles will inevitably lead to civilian casualties, and this deals a political defeat to rebel groups who claim they represent something better than the regime.

If rebel groups are truly angry about regime airstrikes in the Ghouta suburbs they must devise a way to counter them, such as attacks on military airports, but not by targeting areas where civilians live.

They could also build support for their cause by uniting their forces into a single rebel command, because the current system of local warlords has done nothing for their popularity with ordinary Syrians.

The truly alarming part is that after four years, they have to be reminded they are waging a political war that is just as important as the military side of the equation.