The rebels were reeling, and rather than close ranks and recalibrate, they started blaming each other, including the units that were tasked with securing the eastern part of Sahyan for their perceived laxness. The lack of unity among the ranks of Syrian rebels as a whole has long been a problem that stretches beyond this battle, beyond Idlib and is, in fact, a fundamental challenge to opposition forces.

Their unity, always tenuous, was forged ahead of the battle by a council of religious scholars headed by a cleric from the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra group, which has affirmed its allegiance to al-Qaeda. The council gathered the dozens of various commanders in the area and extracted a pledge of allegiance from each that he would work under its direction, and with his fellow commanders. The accord doesn’t seem to have lasted long.

“The word of religious scholars carries weight with respect to the book and the Sunnah [teachings of the Prophet Muhammad], but they are not able to control the battalions and the large groups,” says the Farouq’s Hajj Zaki. The accord started to fracture within weeks. “It reached a point where their word was no longer heeded on the battlefield.”…

Abu Akram, a rebel commander in the city of Maaret al-Numan from the Islamist Suqoor al-Sham brigades who was part of an operations team planning the battle, was a little clearer about the disputes: “The main reason was the lack of supplies, and we started blaming each other and saying ‘so-and-so has more than me, you pledged to work, why aren’t you?’ until it reached the point that Ahrar al-Sham wouldn’t work with the Martyrs of Syria [brigade], and the Martyrs of Syria wouldn’t work except with so-and-so. So we had to end the battle, and plan for a new one.”