The Syrian army and police were given direct orders from the "highest levels" to attack villages, kill the local population or force them to flee, Sky News has been told.
Sky's chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has been inside Syria to speak to some of the large number of military and police prisoners being held by the Free Syrian Army opposition force in the north of the country.
They told him the security forces were being lied to about who they were being sent to kill.
One prisoner told Ramsay, who has now crossed the border back to Turkey, that troops were carrying out random shelling.
"Old people are dying, young people are dying," he said. "It's not a war - it's just random shelling and many people are suffering."
Another inmate said: "We had the idea that (opposition forces) were there to terrorise people, to kill children, to kill females and to kill everybody around, but... we noticed that the opposite was what was actually happening."
Another described the Free Syrian Army as people with "honour and dignity" who are "fighting for a proper reason".
The prisoners, who appear to be well treated, were told through an interpreter that they were under no obligation to speak to Sky News.
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