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Accusations of war crimes rob Syrian rebel fighters of moral high ground

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Samer, one of dozens of FSA fighters who cross into Jordan regularly on "missions," says regime soldiers captured by the FSA are often killed. However, other FSA members in Jordan deny this. They say the rebels in Syria who are kidnapping, torturing, and executing regime supporters are not members of the FSA, and that some of them are just using the group’s name for their own personal gain.

“They don’t care if Assad falls. It is a commercial gain for them. They just want money,” says Ahmed al-Masri, a political and media strategist with the FSA who works directly with the Jordanian government to smuggle in soldiers who have defected.

Mohammad Shakaki, an FSA member who coordinates health-care services and aids Syrian soldiers in defecting, used to fight in the streets of Homs for the rebel group. He says that despite the human rights abuses associated with the FSA, the group is “protecting the civil people and always defending the country.”

“We are going to build a country, not destroy it,” he says. “We are going to attack the terrorists and make good relationships with neighboring countries.”

This week, an amateur video of FSA members executing Syrian government soldiers spread across the Internet. The video shows several prisoners lined up against a wall who are then shot and killed simultaneously. Even after they are clearly dead, rounds are fired at the bodies. Men can be heard in the screaming “Free Syrian Army forever" in the background.

Mohammad Aonad, who works for the human rights bureau of the Syrian National Council (SNC), the umbrella opposition group that has been recognized as a legitimate political representative by much of the international community, admitted that the FSA was responsible for the execution, but says that not all of the crimes can be traced back to the group. He believes that unaffiliated rebels are falsely attributing their crimes to the FSA. 

But the FSA did claim responsibility for the kidnapping last week of 48 Iranian pilgrims who were reportedly traveling to the Sayyida Zeinab Mosque in Damascus. It insists the captives were members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, not religious pilgrims, as Iran contends.

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