The Ba'ath Brigades also known as the Ba'ath Battalions, are a volunteer militia made up of Syrian Ba'ath Party members, almost entirely Sunni Muslims, loyal to the Syrian Government. It was set up in Aleppo under the command of Hilal Hilal, the current Assistant Regional Secretary, after rebels took most of the eastern half of Aleppo in summer 2012. Initially, the Ba'ath Brigades were used to guard government buildings and other key installations in the city, but their role has expanded as their strength has grown from 5,000 members in November 2012 to 7,000 in December 2013. Units since have also formed in Latakia and Tartus. At the end of 2013, the Brigades began deploying in Damascus, tasked with manning checkpoints and conducting "light logistical operations". They spearheaded the assault on the Old City of Aleppo in early 2014.