His small band of a few men moved through the abandoned homes, looking for food and new places to base their brigade. The neighborhood, Bustan al-Basha, one of the many frontlines in the city of Aleppo, was empty, save for the stray cats rummaging through piles of trash, and the hundreds of rebels who, over the summer, had been drawn by the fighting into the city from the poorer rural towns and villages surrounding it. Only three residents remained, in a place that was once home to thousands. There were signs of civilian life everywhere but no life anywhere, no need to fear an awkward conversation with an occupant. The only civilians the rebels chanced upon were the dead, rotting in their homes.
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