World Bullein / News Desk
In the Syrian town of Darat Azzah, a secondary school has turned into a police station, a courthouse and a temporary town hall run by the rebels who are seeking to end President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
It is part of a nascent rebel administration that is taking shape in areas of the country where Assad's authority has disappeared as his security forces try to secure control of Syria's main cities: Aleppo,Damascus, Homs and others.
Even as Western powers question just who will replace Assad, bemoaning divisions in the exiled Syrian opposition, rebels in towns such Darat Azzah are starting to supply answers in real, if sometimes improvised ways.
In one of the classrooms, Captain Malek Abdul Hadi questions a middle-aged man detained at a rebel checkpoint on suspicion of trading flour on the black market that has flourished in Syria's civil war economy.
"This is your last warning and if you are found selling any flour outside the town you will be imprisoned,"Abdul Hadi told the shabbily dressed man, who had been found with a 50 kilogram sack of flour in his van.
A defector from the Assad administration, Abdul Hadi today heads a "revolutionary" security force made up of some 40 officers, all of them former policemen in the government that is now fighting the rebelsfor control of Syria.
Darat Azzah, a town of some 50,000 people in the Aleppo countryside, is one of a string of countrysidetowns in northern Syria where citizens are managing to maintain semblance of normalcy despite the erosion of state control.
At times, Abdul Hadi's role seems more akin to that of a local mayor than a police officer. Among his self-assigned responsibilities, he monitors local bread supplies, urging bakeries to adjust production according to need.
In an adjoining room, Ibrahim Helo, a former Aleppo prison warden, was helping residents fill out forms detailing damage to their properties - cataloguing their losses in the hope that one day compensation will be paid.
But for Abdul Hadi, keeping order is the main concern. During a visit by Reuters to his office, he also took testimony from a witness about the death of a young man killed as he tried to steal timber - a valuable commodity as fuel runs short.
"We are working to preserve security as though the state still exists," said Abdul Hadi, dressed in fatigues and sports shoes as he sat behind his desk, upon which his pistol was placed alongside a rebel flag.
Outside, children play in the streets patrolled by rebel fighters, AK-47 rifles slung over their shoulders.
"We only check IDs of people we don't know," said a gunman named Abu Ahmad, holding a walkie talkie as he waved through a bus load of families who were fleeing Aleppo.
With funds in short supply, Abdul Hadi is relying on the good will of the men who are serving in his volunteer force.
Members of the Sunni Muslim majority, they are driven by revolutionary zeal, describing themselves as empowered after decades of oppression at the hands of an administration led by members of Assad's Alawite minority sect.
The hardships and suffering brought about by the conflict have minimised feuds and personal conflicts, say locals.
Yet bread queues and gasoline shortages inevitably trigger tension, heightening the need for therebels to police black market profiteering and to secure supplies of grain and fuel. Recent rebel attacks on a government-owned wheat silo and army gasoline depots have given them access to new supplies.
In Darat Azzah, the rebels are welcomed as liberators, enjoying wider support than in the wealthier urban centres such Aleppo and Damascus - cities where more people benefited more from Assad's rule.
"Former thieves are now in hiding. No one dares to take advantage of the situation with these rebelsaround," said Yahya al-Sakeh, a low-paid factory worker.
The rebel fighters are for the most part drawn from the rural poor. They air grievances against Assadthat are both economic and political and take on a distinctly sectarian tone as they portray themselves as a victimised Sunni underclass.
"I was deprived of my rights in everything, in my sleep, in my food, in my salary, in everything," saidAbdullah Adris, a rebel who was manning a checkpoint near the town of Binish. An Islamic banner flew from a flag pole attached to a vehicle parked nearby, indicating Sunni Islamist affiliation.
But even as the rebels seek to organise towns, they still face the challenge of organising themselves. A plethora of brigades have emerged, each manned by similarly poor, armed young men.
"The insistence of some small brigades not to unify or join existing groupings is not treason but it divides ranks of the rebels. They should join existing brigades that are already organised. This will make victory closer," said Colonel Khaled Qutaimi, who set up a brigade in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Around 27 politicians vied for the top post in Tunisia. A candidate needs to win 50% + 1 of total votes to be declared as the country's new president.
One of the survivors said each migrant paid about $6,500 to human smugglers to escape the war in Syria in the hopes to reach Europe
The man, surnamed Cao and from the eastern city of Qingdao, is awaiting trial, state broadcaster CCTV said
The cabinet meeting witnessed heated discussions over the bill, which was backed by several right-wing lawmakers from the parties of Likud and Yisrael Beituna
A Palestinian man was killed by Israeli gunfire in northern Gaza Strip, another Palestinian man died of injuries he sustained earlier in the day when an unexploded Israeli ordnance went off in the West Bank's Jordan Valley area
Diplomats said a framework accord was still possible, but that weeks or months would then be needed to agree on the all-important details of how it would be implemented.
Paktika provincial spokesman Mukhles Afghan said at least 50 more were wounded in the attack in Paktika province
Around 51.5 percent of eligible voters participated in the parliamentary elections, while 53.7 percent participated in the municipal elections
The female Israeli settler had attacked the Palestinian woman outside the latter's house and sprayed her with the spray, leaving her with minor face and neck burns
Jalawla and Saadiya are located in Diyala province which is mainly under the control of the Baghdad government forces and Kurdish peshmerga.
Putin will meet Abkhazia's Raul Khadzhimba in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday to sign an "alliance and strategic partnership" agreement
Sisi told Italian daily Corriere della Sera the creation of a Palestinian state was the best way to protect Israeli security while restoring hope for the Palestinian people.
The prosecutors' decision to level a charge of manslaughter rather than murder drew criticism from the boy's father, who said the evidence showed the killing was pre-meditated
"We understand the fatality of an 'Iron Curtain' for us," Putin was quoted as saying the TASS news agency in an interview published
If one mentions “to forget or to ignore” somewhere as Muslim World, the first thing we would think of must be Kashmir
If one mentions “to forget or to ignore” somewhere as Muslim World, the first thing we would think of must be Kashmir. Therefore we have to remind Kashmir the most