A chilling video that has prompted war crimes accusations has emerged online. The video appears to show Syrian opposition fighters executing unarmed government soldiers at a checkpoint in Idlib province.
Warning; Some viewers may find this video disturbingSky News reports that the men shown in the video executing the unarmed men are suspected to be Syrian rebels. The captured men are believed to be government soldiers. The government soldiers were apparently captured after Syrian rebels attacked checkpoints on a major highway in northwestern Syria connecting Saraqib to Aleppo and Ariha, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.
The Independent reports about 28 government soldiers and five opposition fighters were killed in the rebel operation that led to the capture of the strategic highway.
According to The Associated Press, Saraqib has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent times between Syrian rebel forces and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad's regime.
The rebel forces are now in control of Saraqib after government forces retreated during Thursday's fighting, the Observatory said. Sky News reports that the capture of Saraqib is strategic for the rebels because the road controls access to Damascus. The capture effectively cuts government forces main supply route to Aleppo and links to Latakia, the major coastal city of Assad's native Alawite community.
The video is unconfirmed, but it is believed to show a group of armed men wearing rebel head bands standing over unarmed prisoners. The Independent reports the execution took place on Thursday and was allegedly filmed at the Hamisho checkpoint west of Saraqib.
The video shows a confused scene of excited fighters shouting on top of their voices in the Arabic language. A group of wounded men are lying on the floor amid excited gun-wielding soldiers. The video shows the fighters kicking the wounded men on the ground. According to The Independent, one of the men pleads with his captors, "I did not hit anyone, by Allah. I did not kill anyone."
Sky News reports a man is heard, saying, "Gather them for me."
The wounded prisoners are piled up crudely like rubbish in a heap with soldiers walking over them, stamping on their heads and faces in a confused and noisy scene intermingled with shouts of "Allahu Akbar."
The clip ends with the soldiers shooting at the men piled in heap, and bullets kicking up dust as they continue shooting for about 20 seconds.
The Independent reports this is not the first incident of what appears war crimes committed by the Syrian rebels. UN representatives and human rights groups have accused Syrian opposition forces of carrying out summary executions and abusing detainees.
The emergence of this grisly video comes after a similar incident in August when a group of rebels reportedly killed locals in Aleppo they accused of being members of Assad's Shabiha (ghosts) militia, Digital Journal reported in August.
According to The Associated Press, reports of human rights abuses by rebel forces has undermined their claims of moral high ground in the civil war.
Sky News reports government dissidents have contributed to the success of the Syrian rebels by bringing tactical knowledge, skills and experience to the rag-tag rebel army. But in recent times, government army deserters have been unwilling to contact Syrian rebel forces because of fears of summary execution.
Amnesty International's Ann Harrison, deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said the footage appears to show "a potential war crime in progress."
She said Amnesty would investigate the alleged atrocity.
Government troops are also accused of war crimes, including murder of civilians.
The capture of Saraqib comes at a time the Syrian National Council (SNC) is under pressure from Washington to forge a broad-based front.
The SNC recently attacked the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after she stated the group does not fully represent the diversity of the Syrian opposition. She reportedly said the SNC "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition."
A statement by the SNC in response, said: "Any discussions aimed at passing over the Syrian National Council or at creating new bodies to replace it are an attempt to undermine the Syrian revolution by sowing the seeds of division."
Sky News reports that US contribution to the rebels is small in comparison to assistance from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
According to The Independent, government jets bombed the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus on Thursday and fighting continued through the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which ended Monday, despite efforts by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, to secure a truce. At least 120 people were reportedly killed in fighting across the country on Thursday.