While Syrian troops have expended most of their effort trying to retain the regime's grip on the country's biggest cities—from Homs to Damascus and now Aleppo—rebel uprisings have claimed increasingly large swathes of the countryside, the Washington Post reports. The Post uses as a case study al-Bab, a town of about 175,000 in the same region as Aleppo that mostly stayed out of the conflict until regime troops opened fire on a protest April 20. That killing mobilized the town.
Within months, it had formed a militia, and though it calls itself part of the Free Syrian Army, it's run independently. On Sunday, it succeeded in routing the army garrison there, proving how tenuous the regime's grip on power is in some places. Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage in Aleppo. Regime troops say they've taken the rebel-friendly Salaheddine district, but rebels deny that, and say the regime is on its back foot. One rebel commander tells Reuters that he thinks his men can claim the city center "within days, not weeks."