Syria rebels kill 28 soldiers, video shows ‘executions’

DAMASCUS — Syrian rebels killed 28 soldiers on Thursday, a watchdog said, amid a report they beat and executed some of them, as fighting raged in the country’s northwestern battlefields

The troops were among at least 153 people killed nationwide — 72 soldiers, 43 civilians and 38 rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said

The clashes came as the main opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) hit back at US warnings of rising Islamic extremism among rebels, saying the West and its partners were to blame for increasing radicalisation

And China, amid stalled international peace efforts, said it had made “constructive new suggestions” to end the bloodshed during talks with UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi

The 28 soldiers died during attacks on three army checkpoints in northwestern Idlib province, on the main road from Damascus to the embattled city of Aleppo, the Britain-based Observatory said

Five rebels were also killed in the fighting near the city of Saraqeb in the northwest, now a key battleground after rebels seized the town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo road last month

A video of Thursday’s attack posted on YouTube — its authenticity could not be verified — showed rebels beating about 10 soldiers before lining them on the ground and executing them with automatic rifles.

A rebel is heard telling a prisoner: “Do you not know that we belong to the people of this country?” The soldier replies: “I swear in the name of God I did not fire

Amnesty International’s Ann Harrison said in a statement: “This shocking footage depicts a potential war crime in progress, and demonstrates an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question

Thursday also saw helicopter gunships strafing a district of Damascus as warplanes pounded rebel bastions in the capital’s suburbs and in Idlib, the Observatory said

At least three air raids hit the northern Damascus suburb of Harasta, home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army’s best organised fighters, as on the other side of the city gunships attacked the Al-Hajar al-Aswad district

President Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched intensive air strikes this week that analysts say are a response to opposition gains and aimed at “terrorising” local communities

“They are trying to make the civilian population so angry and so scared that it will not be possible for the rebels to find safe havens,” said Riad Kahwaji, head of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis

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