The New York Times reports: The Syrian rebel leader was sitting comfortably on a cushion at his home here recently, his wife and children filling the rooms with conversation and laughter. Then one day he shaved off his beard and slipped back into Syria, where he leads a rebel brigade.
“I cried,” said his mother-in-law, Wesal al-Aweer. “I pleaded with him not to leave.”
“We were used to having him around the house,” said his wife, Montaha Zoubi, 34, “so now we feel there is an emptiness in the house.”
A hardware store owner in Syria before the civil war, Hussein Zoubi, 40, took up arms against the government almost two years ago. Since then, like thousands of Syrian men in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, he has been leading the life of a commuter rebel, a fighter inside Syria and a family man across the border.
Men have long gone to war after packing off their families to safer places. But the war’s proximity here along the Syrian-Jordanian border has collapsed the distances. The vast majority of the refugees are women and children, who have sought safety here, while the men slip in and out of Syria.
Unlike the battle-hardened Islamist combatants who have made rapid gains inside Syria in recent months, these are ordinary men — small-business owners, plumbers, carpenters — caught up in the war. They fight for weeks at a time and keep in constant touch electronically, but then return to see their families, nurse wounds and take care of businesses that may have suffered in their absence. [Continue reading…]