The conflict in Syria is becoming "overtly sectarian", says the new report by the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, a body tasked by the UN to investigate violations of international law.
The fault lines are running increasingly along the religious divisions, with the Sunni-Alawite antagonism standing at the centre of this rapidly evolving tragedy. The Sunni majority is broadly but not exclusively supportive of the rebels fighting the government troops. Most of the officer corps, special units, and intelligence apparatus are dominated by members of the Alawite religious minority, including the President Bashar al-Assad and his family.
Both sides have committed acts of violence against civilians, and the situation has deteriorated with the influx of foreign Sunni Islamists that fight alongside the Syrian rebels.
This trend has been apparent for some time. Of course, there is a lot more to the Alawite community than the uniformed men fighting for the state. There are Alawite dissident intellectuals, tribal leaders opposed to Assad's clan, and rural Alawites who have not seen much material progress under Assad's rule. But as the violence escalated since the 2011 uprising, most of the community rallied behind the regime out of fear they would suffer collective retribution by the Sunni majority.
I've covered some of these issues in my article on the differences between the Alawites and Sunnis.
Photo by Local Coordination Committee in Tal Town.