Middle East

Summary executions overshadow clashes in Aleppo

Damaged buildings are seen after the car bombing in Aleppo.

ALEPPO, Syria: Syrian rebels summarily executed at least 20 government soldiers in Aleppo, a watchdog said Monday, as fighting claimed at least 100 lives around the country.

The soldiers executed were captured at a military compound during a rebel attack in the Hanano district of east Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They had their eyes blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs before they were lined up and shot, sometime over the weekend, Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman told AFP.

An amateur video posted on YouTube and distributed by the Observatory showed some 20 bodies laid out next to each other on a pavement. Many of the men’s heads were covered in blood, and some were wearing jeans rather than full military attire.

One of the rebels standing next to the bodies held up his hand in a victory sign. “Allahu Akbar!” (God is greatest), cried another, as a third shouted out at the bodies: “You dogs! You low lifes!”

The killings were claimed by members of the Hawks of Aleppo Brigade of the Free Syrian Army.

Syrian army troops regained full control of the barracks in Aleppo after days of fierce clashes with rebels seeking to overrun the strategic site, a military official said.

“The Syrian army is in total control of the Hanano barracks after fighting which came to a complete halt during the night,” the source told AFP from inside the barracks.

On Friday, rebel fighters launched an offensive aimed at capturing the military base, a fortress-like compound.

They claimed to have taken control of parts of the base which serves as a weapons storage depot, conscript recruitment center and the headquarters of the local branch of the military police and riot police.

Another video that was posted Monday is likely to generate controversy, as it shows the bodies of six men and one woman who were purportedly killed at the Ramouseh Bridge district of Aleppo.

A rebel fighter reads out the personal information from the ID cards of the dead bodies, and asserts that at least two of them, including the woman, were officers. He also reads out a blood-stained military order that he claims was found with the group, but the document merely details a transport order of personnel to attend a trial in the coastal city of Tartous.

The killings were claimed by a contingent of the Syrian army called the Hawks of Syria, which was formed last year.

Reports of the executions came as Syrian MiG warplanes blitzed areas of Aleppo, dropping two bombs at a time and then opening up with machine-gun fire, an AFP correspondent reported.

Helicopter gunships also flew over the city causing panic on the streets as residents fled for safety, the correspondent reported.

The Britain-based Observatory said at least five people died in morning bombing raids on the Marjeh, Sakhur, Hanano, Tariq al-Bab and Sheikh Khodr neighborhoods of Aleppo, among a total of 95 civilians killed nationwide, 63 of them civilians.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission said Monday’s death toll stood at 107 people, which included 10 children and nine women, while the Local Coordination Committees said the figure stood at 110, with the large majority, 71, killed in Damascus and surrounding areas.

The concerns over human rights violations comes as United Nations head Ban Ki-moon called for all war criminals in Syria to be brought to justice, as his human rights chief urged a probe into the slaughter late last month of hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Daraya.

A U.N. enquiry has accused the army, pro-government militia and the rebels of committing war crimes but has said that violations by the rebels are on a much lower scale.

Meanwhile, Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, said the death toll from a car bomb in Aleppo the night before had risen to 30 civilians – including women and children – with 64 people wounded.

The blast happened near two hospitals. According to Aleppo-based activist Mohammad al-Hasan, one of the hospitals, Al-Hayat, was turned into a site for the treatment of government troops shortly after the fighting in Aleppo began in July.

SANA also reported that the blast was caused by a small truck rigged with more than 1,000 kilograms of explosives, which left a crater 6 meters deep.

SANA blamed “terrorists,” the term the regime uses for rebels, for the attack. But there was no immediate claim of responsibility from the rebels or any other group. Some opposition activists disputed the SANA claim that the dead were all civilians. The Observatory, citing hospital sources that it did not name, said members of the military were among the dead.

It was impossible to confirm the claims. Syria heavily restricts media access, making official media and activist reports crucial sources of information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 11, 2012, on page 8.




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