DAY 876 - AUGUST 1, 2013
Buoyed by the ISIS takeover in many parts of Eastern Syria, Al Qaeda members perform a daring prison break at Abu Ghraib, the famed US jailhouse used during the American occupation in Iraq. Consequently, Al Qaeda frees more than 500 high-ranking terrorists into the Iraqi desert and Israel's Director of Military Intelligence warns that Syria is becoming a hotbed for global jihadists. Britain and France confirm that Sarin gas was used in Syria during the spring. In response, UN weapons inspectors say they will visits three locations where chemical weapons were allegedly deployed. Iran, one of Assad's strongest allies, extends a $3.6 billion credit line to Syria while Russia pushes forward with arms shipments to the regime, despite intense international pressure to break ties with the Syrian government. Furthermore Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, promises to propel Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's forces to victory. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says that the situation in Syria has now claimed over 100,000 lives.
The Abu Ghraib jailbreak scatters ISIS members across the liberated north of Syria. You watch as they begin to push westward, starting in Al Hakasah, then moving to Al Raqqa, then to Azaz, and then finally to Aleppo. One of the first ISIS members you meet in Aleppo is Zaia, a stoic man who chainsmokes Gauloises and carries a gun made of gold. After a while he tells you he acquired the gun off of a dead man in Mali after that man pilfered it from a different dead man in Libya. You have a feeling Zaia is a mercenary, but you aren't sure. Either way, he fits into the chaotic makeup of Aleppo just fine. However, you cannot say the same thing about some of the other ISIS members. You fear their ruthlessness could catapult the city into a more terrifying state, if that's even possible. The rebels and regime forces have dug themselves into positions in Aleppo, according to neighborhood, as a stalemate takes hold between the eastern and western sides of the city. In the middle remains the checkpoint of death, which connects Bustan Al Qasr, Jamiliyeh, Feid, Masharga, and Bustan Al Zahra. Snipers on both sides of the checkpoint fire at each other regularly. Because of the difficulty in crossing and in order to minimize the amount of trips for pedestrians, a market has sprouted for young boys to help carry foodstuffs from one side to the other. Aleppo is now a city of checkpoints. Some 1,500 exist among the narrow streets and open thoroughfares. People are afraid to leave their homes. Children stay indoors for weeks if not months at a time. Lawlessness among different neighborhoods and districts of Aleppo is on the rise. You aren't surprised then, as all order falls apart, that the Badr Martyrs Brigade creeps into focus once more. You watch a video of what the brigade is calling The Hell Cannon, a DIY mega-launcher that propels propane gas canisters, nearly a mile, for explosive results. You know that Al Nusra has been booby-trapping manikins with IEDs on some of the big roads, near the front lines, in the hopes that a regime tank will set them off. For many reasons (this being one of them) it is becoming riskier to step foot outside. Collateral damage proliferates in Aleppo everyday. In addition, trash collection has stopped completely in the city, as has all other civil services that might be offered in any normal place in the world.