DAMASCUS, Syria - Syria's main opposition coalition Thursday condemned a rebel blockade of government-held districts in the contested northern city of Aleppo, issuing a rare statement of criticism against fighters who reportedly caused severe food shortages at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Residents of the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood staged protests against the blockade by Islamic militant rebels, according to activists and a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday.
The demonstration was one of three reported in Aleppo province in recent days against alleged abuses by al-Qaida-affiliated fighters, suggesting growing discontent in rebel areas toward the hard-line factions that are among the most organized of the rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad.
"The people want to break the siege!" the residents shouted angrily during a demonstration at a checkpoint. The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting on Aleppo.
The checkpoint is the only link between rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo and western districts controlled by the government. It was reportedly seized and closed several days ago by non-Syrian fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a merger of al-Qaida's branches in Iraq and Syria.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fighters banned the transport of goods through the crossing to besieged regime-held neighborhoods of Aleppo, leading to shortages of food.
He said the checkpoint was reopened Thursday based on an order from the Sharia Council of Aleppo, the Islamic court governing rebel-held parts of the city.
The main Western-backed opposition group issued a statement criticizing the siege. The Syrian National Coalition has previously criticized acts by various factions in the splintered rebel movement, but not frequently.