The Syrian soldiers in this dust-covered, rubbelised town don’t smile very much and their battle fatigue is obvious. They wear an assortment of T-shirts and scarves and black headbands – not unlike their Isis enemies — and when a radio crackles the news that an officer has been killed by a mine in a neighbouring village, they show no immediate reaction. Combat troops don’t look like the men at headquarters with their neat uniforms and clip-boards and strategic explanations. But in Deir Hafer, these Syrian soldiers are lucky. Twelve hours ago, their Isis enemies – rather than fighting to the death — suddenly fled for their lives.
Revealed: How Isis turns normal towns and villages into theatres and factories of death