Somehow, the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who can't -- or won't -- leave this battleground city have grown accustomed to living in a state of war.
But they have also shown that they do not want to live in a state of anarchy.
On a side street, not far from where goats graze next to a burned-out ambulance in what used to be a neighborhood park, stand the offices of what can only be described as a rebel court.
The United Courts Council operates without the authority or recognition of any central government. It stands on the opposition-held side of the front lines that divide this city.
This self-appointed council of judges, lawyers and clerics started working four months ago. Judging by the line of supplicants waiting in the halls, residents appear to have granted this court some degree of popular legitimacy.
In rooms marked "Civil Court" and "Personal Affairs Court," legal workers on a recent day issued birth and death certificates, signed divorce papers and listened to lawyers plead their clients' cases in a family property dispute.
Nobody flinched when blasts from artillery shells rocked nearby neighborhoods.
"We created this temporary judicial council as an emergency solution, like when a doctor removes a bullet from a patient without using anesthetic," said Marwan Gayed.
Gayed is a former appeals court judge who defected from the Syrian government and now serves as the general prosecutor for the United Courts Council. He sat in an office, signing legal documents and stamping them with the council's seal, oblivious to thunderous explosions echoing outside.
"We have a deteriorating humanitarian situation," he added. "We came to work to stop people like the Free Syrian Army or others from taking advantage of the weak and to maintain law and order inside liberated areas." The Free Syrian Army is the main rebel force fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Even a temporary judicial system requires some system of detention and punishment.
The council has about 100 prisoners detained in a series of makeshift jail cells in a basement that resembles a dungeon.
In the "military prison," a court founded by rebels has incarcerated rebels accused of committing war crimes.
During a visit by CNN journalists, more than a dozen men sat on mats in a cavernous room.
Some of the inmates said they were there on charges of robbery and theft.
Others, like a bearded fighter who called himself Abu Younus, were being investigated for leading men into a battle that resulted in the friendly fire deaths of many fellow rebels. Abu Younus made an emotional plea, declaring his innocence.
"God, you know that I am innocent," he bellowed, raising hands and face to the ceiling. "Please god reveal the truth."
Then he suddenly collapsed on the ground.
"He passes out when he gets excited," a prison guard explained.
Another jailed rebel, who asked not to be named, said, "I am a member of the Free Syrian Army and the captain of a battalion. I tortured a shabiha" -- a pro-government militia-man -- "and he died three days later.
"I turned myself in. And now I'm waiting for the law to take its course ... in this failure of a court."
The jailed rebels were being held in the same prison cell with several captured loyalist soldiers. Men who could have been trying to kill each other on the battlefield weeks ago slept side by side on the floor and shared prison food.
The conditions in the basement prison were grim, dark and cold. Yet at first glance, inmates there appeared to be treated better than at another makeshift rebel jail CNN visited in northern Syria last August.
There, CNN saw more than 40 prisoners being held at a time in a single, over-crowded room. Some of those detainees, especially members of the shabiha militia, showed obvious signs of torture.
At the United Courts Council jail in Aleppo, the prison warden led visitors to another cell, where men sat with their backs to the walls under heavy blankets. Some read books. One inmate read a newspaper.