"In the beginning when they came with guns, we fled, then we got used to it … and then when they came with BMPs [armored vehicles], we fled, but then we got used to that too," said 1st Lt. Ghiath "Abu Walid" Jumaa. He defected from the army in July and at 24 is one of the youngest militia leaders in the area. "And then they came with tanks, and we have gotten used to that too, and now we stay and fight."
Rebels say they are not taking any offensive action during the cease-fire — an assertion the government regularly counters with allegations of attacks and bombings by armed groups — but are preparing for immediate attacks once the Free Syrian Army leadership working from Turkey gives the go-ahead.
"It's going to end in war," Jumaa said.
For the soldiers and officers who defected, let alone the civilian volunteers, the type of conflict they are fighting is different from what they trained for. They run drills on raiding buildings and shooting and moving in urban areas, Idriss said.
"We never trained in a city setting before; we used to practice in open spaces," he said. "Now we are defending buildings and civilians."
They are also still adjusting to fighting in a conflict in which they are outgunned. Here in Homs province, the rebels say they have not received foreign military assistance or the salaries and communications equipment promised by the Friends of Syria, a multinational anti-Assad coalition seeking a solution to the crisis. They also say they have had no help from any other outside groups.
Both sides in the conflict have been accused of committing atrocities, and the government argues that it is fighting terrorists inspired by Al Qaeda.
The rebels are hypersensitive to any mention of Al Qaeda in Syria or the suggestion that they could be receiving support from the terrorist network.
"We're going to start fighting with a bottle of whiskey in our hand, just so the world sees we're not Al Qaeda," joked Mohammad Khair Raid, a lanky 22-year-old who defected from the army months ago.
Since two massive car bombs killed 55 people in Damascus, fear has increased that Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups have seized on the conflict as a way to gain a foothold in the country. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon blamed Al Qaeda in the Damascus bombing.
"People think we are growing beards because we're Al Qaeda. We're growing beards because we don't have razor blades," Mutawi said, though his was neatly trimmed. "Send us razor blades and we'll shave the beards."
"We will have to fight with whatever we have; there is no other solution," he said.
On the television in a smoke-filled room in a Qusair apartment, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" played silently in the background as the men ate dates.
Without heavy weapons, rebels say, they have to act more strategically.
Though the militias say they are refraining from offensive action, they also say they have begun sending groups of fighters to the capital to carry out small operations: attacking buses carrying members of the shabiha militia or security force vehicles, or even conducting assassinations.
"The final battle is going to be in Damascus, just like it was in Tripoli," in Libya, Jumaa said.
In an online video posted last week a Free Syrian Army militia operating in Damascus and its suburbs claimed responsibility for assassinating six high-ranking security and government officials, including the director of general security and the defense minister. The claims were denied by the interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ibrahim Shaar, who was among those the rebels claimed to have killed.
Some say thousands of fighters have been sent to Damascus to prepare for the end of the peace plan; others say the number is more modest. In any case, it signals the uprising is likely to become bloodier.
"The minute Annan, that dog, says there is no cease-fire and I have nothing to do with Syria, we're going to light the capital on fire," said Fidaa Aamir, a member of the Soldiers of the Merciful militia in Qusair, who each night leads residents in chants and song.
"We've already poured the oil on Assad," said another man puffing on a hookah. "Now we're just waiting to light the fuse."