Turkey’s leading newspaper Hurriyet has a striking example this morning of the distorted and erroneous information being posted by mainstream media from northern Syria, “Syrian Rebels Abandon Aleppo, Leader Flees to Turkey“:
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the recognized armed opposition group against the Bashar al-Assad in Syria, has ceased its resistance in Aleppo, Syria’s second biggest city, withdrawing its 14,000 militia from the city, a ranking Turkish security source told the Hürriyet Daily News on [Monday].
If true, the story would mark the end of insurgent resistance in Aleppo, divided since July 2012. However, the very next sentence establishes that the report is dubious:
“Its leader Jamal Marouf has fled to Turkey,” confirmed the source, who asked not to be named. “He is currently being hosted and protected by the Turkish state.”
Jamal Maarouf is not the head of the Free Syrian Army, but of the Syrian Revolutionary Front, a faction defeated in in-fighting with Jabhat al-Nusra earlier this month.
The SRF has nowhere close to 14,000 men. Its main positions were in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, not Aleppo city.
The errors continue:
As a result, the FSA has lost control over the Bab al-Hawa border gate (opposite from Turkey’s Cilvegözü in Reyhanlı), which is now being held by a weak coalition of smaller groups led by Ahrar al-Sham.
The source said some of the weaponry delivered to the FSA by the U.S.-led coalition in its fight against both Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria might have fallen into the hands of Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra, the Syria branch of al-Qaeda.
The Bab al-Hawa border crossing has been and is still controlled by the Islamic Front, the largest bloc in Syria’s insurgency. Ahrar al-Sham is part of the Islamic Front and so would normally receive some of the weapons and supplies that cross into Syria.
So is the story a genuine error on the part of the “Turkish intelligence source” and Hurriyet? Or is there a strategy of disinformation behind yet another distorted account of recent developments in the insurgency?