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“Life has become a struggle,” said Abu Ali, 31, a wounded army defector at a safe house in Guvecci village, Turkey, where gunshots occasionally pierce the silence.

He said he joined the rebel army three months ago and fought in five skirmishes against Assad forces, the latest in the village of Ain Al-Baida on Friday.

He detailed his new career as an armed escort for civilians, saying he lost count of the people he helped get across the border.

But the rebels ferrying footage, supplies and people across the border say they don’t think twice about the risk.

“If I die for this, then at least my children might become free,” said Samer. “Haven’t you tasted freedom? Isn’t it worth dying for?”