Residents who remain in beleaguered city suffer from bombardment by government forces and mismanagement by rebels.
For the first time, Al Jazeera has gained access to a frontline view of the stand-off outside al-Raqqa city in northern Syria.
Opposition snipers from the Ahrar al-Sham Brigade, a group that has a reputation for some of the fiercest combat fighters in Syria’s war, are in the forefront of the fight against President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Al-Sham wants an Islamic state in Syria and shares ideology with groups like Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq. That puts Al-Sham ideologically apart from the Free Syria Army, creating a division that is holding back the revolution.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons reports from al-Raqqa.