Eleven shots ring out – plus two more for good measure – leaving 11 Syrian soldiers dead or dying in the sand. Moments earlier, flanked by the black flags of Jhabat al-Nusra, an unidentified man invokes the "name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" and reads a condemnation:
"The Sharia Court of the Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) in the Eastern Region in Deir al-Zour has decreed killing upon these apostate soldiers for the massacres they have committed against our brothers and our people in Syria." With that, the grisly video plays on bullet by bullet as the man deals out a perverted form of justice in the name of God. (Note: Due to the extremely graphic and disturbing nature of the video, The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has decided not to post it or link to it.)
Hot on the heels of a similarly grotesque video depicting the leader of the Syrian rebel Independent Omar al-Farouq brigade, Abu Sakkar, mutilating a dead Syrian soldier's body and taking a bite out of his heart, this latest video highlights the increasingly-gruesome war-crimes playing out on all sides of this multi-faceted Syrian civil war.
Thanks in large part to their battle-hardened capabilities, al-Qaida-tied Jhabat al-Nusra is becoming increasingly popular among the opposition forces. With members of the more secular Free Syrian Army (FSA) defecting to join its ranks, al-Nusra's power and influence are increasing – adding to the concern about proposals for the United States to arm Syrian rebels.
While the Assad regime's primary focus seems limited to quelling the rebellion, Jhabat al-Nusra and its parent group al-Qaida in Iraq see Assad's overthrow as the first step in a far grander plan to create an Islamic state in Syria under Sharia law. Then they can use the more advanced weapon systems they hope to gain against Israel.
The border with Syria – the Golan Heights – has been relatively peaceful since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This region, now the site of Syrian rocket attacks and threats of re-entry by Syrian forces, stands as the most likely target for Jhabat al-Nusra's aggression and "justice."
Recent assessments cast Assad in a position of renewed strength, and although Jhabat al-Nusra appears to hold both Israel and Iranian-supported Hizballah with equal disdain, al-Nusra's advances indicate a peaceful era is a long way off.