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Syrian Army deserter: 'We were ordered to shoot on the people'

Darwish Mohammed Fidou deserted his unit after he was given orders to fire directly on civilians. His story bolsters growing reports of dissent within Syria's military.

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Fidou was sent into battle with a plastic riot shield and a truncheon.

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"The first day they didn't tell us anything, just that there are gangs out there, trying to kill people," says Fidou. "When we went to the streets, we were surprised to find only people with olive branches."

Commanders "were ordering us to shoot at the people, and if we didn't shoot we would be killed," recounts Fidou. Snipers were placed to shoot at possible deserters.

In the melee, Fidou and a number of other soldiers who refused to kill ran from the scene, eventually being taken in and hidden by families who knew they would not shoot.

“They were begging us: ‘Don’t kill anybody!” he recounts.

'I saw snipers and soldiers shooting at each other'

Afterward they fearfully regrouped and returned to their barracks, while those who had actually fired upon the crowds “went back crying with regret.”

The treason of Fidou and some others went undetected.

“Our commanders were cheering: ‘You are the heroes!” recalls Fidou. The soldiers shouted back, nervous to do anything less than expected: “Bashar al-Assad will protect you!”

Fidou had had enough, however, and paid a bribe for a slip of paper – which he still keeps in his pocket – that allowed him to temporarily exit the base on May 15. Leaving everything behind, he fled, eventually passing through Jisr al-Shughur, where he joined anti-regime protesters.

When the shooting started, he didn’t stick around but headed with many others for the safety of the mountains and his home village of Khirbet al-Jouz. Looking back, “I saw tanks shooting, and snipers and soldiers shooting at each other,” recalls Fidou.

His story bolsters opposition claims that the high death toll of 120 police and security forces, which Syrian state-run media claimed were killed in an “ambush” by “armed gangs” last weekend, actually was the result of increasing dissent within Syrian units.

The result was the vow by Damascus to deliver a “decisive” military blow against Jisr al-Shughur, and across this part of northwest Syria, to avenge those deaths.

Officer's warning: Military will take everything, kill the men

Heavy early summer rains poured today on the thousands of Syrians who refugees say are waiting just inside the border with Syria, still undecided about whether they will join the 7,000 already in Turkey.

And what else does the future hold, as the Syrian Army moves to reclaim its rebellious northwest? Fidou says an officer sent a message a few days ago to his home village, just over the next hill, in view of a Turkish overlook tower.

It was a warning that the Syrian military will soon arrive, and "take everything and kill the men."

Today, says Fidou, there is no one left in the village.

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