A rebel fighter fires a weapon as a fellow fighter covers his ears during clashes with forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad on the frontline of Aleppo's Sheikh Saeed neighbourhood May 23, 2015. REUTERS/Hosam Katan
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Weakened by years of war, Syria's government appears ready for the country's de facto partition, defending strategically important areas and leaving much of the country to rebels and jihadis, experts and diplomats say.Syria's government labels all those fighting to oust President Bashar Assad "terrorists," and has pointed to the emergence of ISIS and the Nusra Front as evidence that opponents of the regime are extremists.The territory the regime controls accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of the population, according to French geographer and Syria expert Fabrice Balanche.He said 10-15 percent of Syria's population is now in areas controlled by ISIS, 20-25 percent in territory controlled by Nusra or rebel groups and another 5 to 10 percent in areas controlled by Kurdish forces.Thomas Pierret, a Syria expert at the University of Edinburgh, said that to survive, "the regime will have to lower its expectations and concentrate on the Damascus-Homs-coast axes.
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