“We fought so many battles here,” he said, eyes scanning nervously for the enemy sniper fire that still harasses the village. “I know that my bullets killed some of the men on the other side, and I think that some of them were people who had been my friends.”

The story of how the war slowly soured relationships between Alawites and Sunnis in this village provides a sad snapshot of the damage the conflict is wreaking to Syria as whole, and indeed the sectarian threat it poses to the wider region.

In Beit Swelheh, Alawite and Sunni families who had lived happily together for decades ended up fleeing as violence broke out. Only the young men were left behind, fighting pitched battles with people they had often played with as children…

Similar fighting has engulfed half a dozen neighbouring villages, all of which have now fallen to Sunni hands and which now mark the end of the Alawite sphere of influence in this section of Latakia province.