A disturbing amateur video that shows Syrian rebels executing government soldiers has emerged. The government soldiers, half naked, unarmed and trembling with fear, are made to kneel facing a wall before they are shot.
The Guardian reports the men are members of the shabiha, a militia group supporting President Bashar al Assad's regime. According to the Los Angeles Times, the footage, purporting to show Syrian rebel troops executing pro-government militia members in Aleppo, has attracted strong condemnation. The NY Daily News reports that although the provenance of the video cannot be independently verified, human rights groups have condemned the execution. Nadim Houry, of the Human Rights Watch, tweeted: “The reported execution by FSA of members of the Berri clan in #Aleppo is a war crime. Such reprisals never justified.”
The video shows the rebel troops leading the Shabiha men to execution while other armed men chant "Allahu Akbar!" One of the shahiba men is an older man with bloodied face dressed only in boxer shorts. He and the younger men show signs of being abused.
The Daily Mail reports that at one point, a man attempts to stop the filming by putting his hands over the camera lens. When, soon after the noise of gun fire, the camera regains focus, a pile of corpses is seen where the men had knelt.
The video caption says the footage shows execution of "dog" shabiha leader Zeino Berri, and other leaders from the Berri clan. The men were accused of committing atrocities in Aleppo. The shahiba are blamed for killings, rape and other atrocities, including the Houla massacre in which more than 108 people, mostly women and children were killed.
RT.com identifies "Zeino Berri" as Ali Zeineddin al-Berri, accused of leading a shabiha group that killed 15 FSA soldiers during a truce in Aleppo.
According to RT.com, Clive Baldwin, a senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch, told BBC News: "What it looks like is execution of detainees and if that is the case, that would be a war crime."
Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov, has also condemned the shooting: "The brutal massacre of government supporters by the opposition in the city of Aleppo shows that human rights violations are being committed by both sides."
The Guardian reports that Bashir al-Haji, spokesman for the FSA's Tawhid ("Unity") Brigade, said in a phone interview that the shootings were in retaliation for the incident on Tuesday when 15 FSA people were killed by Berri shabiha during a truce in that part of Aleppo.
There have been several reports of what appear summary executions in Syria by both rebel and government troops. RT.com reports that Ahmed, a rebel fighter from the Amr bin Al-Aas brigade in the Syrian town of Azaz, recounted the execution of a Syrian army sniper Rami, who was shot dead after a trial by his graveside. Ahmed said: "We took him right to his grave and, after hearing the witnesses' statements, we shot him dead." Ahmed indicated that his men often captured prisoners in battle and create graveside "courts" before they are executed. When pressed on the issue, he said: "The culture of lawyers has long passed. I mean a guy like that. what do you think his fate should be?"
The Los Angeles Times reports more than 140,000 people have viewed the footage of the purported execution and it has attracted more than 2,000 likes and 100 dislikes.
According to Los Angeles Times, a comment said: "This is what happens to people who kill children, women and shell protesters! Everyone else should use this as an example."
Another said: "How ugly. But they deserve it."
Another comment asked: "These people want freedom and democracy"? What a farce."
Amnesty International said in a report issued Wednesday that the Assad government is engaged in a brutal campaign in Aleppo. The report, according to Amnesty, "details a wide range of systematic, state-directed abuses, including the deliberate targeting of peaceful protesters and activists, the hunting down of injured protesters, the routine use of torture, the targeting of medics providing lifesaving emergency treatment to the wounded, arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances."
Meanwhile President Assad has issued a statement encouraging his troops to fight, saying that the battle against the Syrian rebel troops will determine the fate of Syria. The message appeared in the military magazine to mark the armed forces day, The Daily Mail reports.
The statement said: "The fate of our people and our nation, past, present and future, depends on this battle."
The Guardian reports Assad told his fighters in the statement: "My trust in you is great, and the trust of our people in you that you are the defender of its just causes."
Assad has not spoken in public since the bombing in Damascus on July 18 that killed four of his close security aides. Although he has been seen on television, Assad's whereabouts remain unknown two weeks after a bomb attack killed members of his inner cabinet.
Thousands have fled the city of Aleppo with a population of 2.5 million. Those who remain live under daily risks.
The rebels face a daunting task being poorly armed in comparison with the Syrian Army. They are armed mostly with rifles, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades against the Syrian Army that has fighter jests, helicopter gunships, tanks, armored fighting vehicles, artillery and mortars. The lack of unity between the several rebel groups is also a factor against their success.