“When they chose to fight with the regime, they gave us the right to attack them,” said another member of Ahrar al Sham, who asked not to be identified for security reasons. “In Islam, along with forgiveness, we have something called justice, and justice is important.”
“We have nothing to do with people who don’t fight us. But all the men, women and children in those places are armed,” the fighter said.
As he spoke, he made it clear that he considered Alawites and Shiites non-Muslims, a distinction that could carry serious repercussions.
The rebellion has split some of Syria’s large rural families.
“The Hamadee family has 96 defected soldiers and 27 still serving,” said Omar al Hamadee, a rebel whose extended family hails from the city of Kafr Nabouda, one of the places in the area the army still occupies. “My brother is still in the army. He is selfish; he just wants to finish his service and travel abroad.”
“He has finished his obligatory service; he’s in Deraa,” Hamadee said, referring to a city near the Jordanian border where the army controls much of the city proper but fights fierce battles with the rebels on its outskirts. “I’ve offered to help my brother defect. He hasn’t seen his family in 11 months.”
Hamadee said economic incentives were keeping some soldiers in the government’s service.
“Before, going to the army meant you were poor,” he said. “Now the people who volunteer get lots of money.”
“My parents wish my brother would come. About two months ago they went to Deraa, but they couldn’t convince his commanders to give him leave or let them see him,” he said.
When rebels capture soldiers, they often call other rebel battalions from those soldiers’ hometowns to ask what should be done with them. Hamadee said he was prepared to order his brother’s death if it could be proved that he’d killed rebels or civilians.
“In the revolution, the man who is fighting beside me is my brother,” he said.