Syrian rebels kill 28 soldiers, several executed

BEIRUT Thu Nov 1, 2012 1:27pm EDT

1 of 8. Free Syrian Army fighters walk near a building damaged after a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad fired missiles at Marat al-Numan near the northern province of Idlib October 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Zakwan Hadeed/Shaam News Network/Handout

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Anti-government rebels killed 28 soldiers on Thursday in attacks on three army checkpoints around Saraqeb, a town on Syria's main north-south highway, a monitoring group said.

Some of the dead were shot after they had surrendered, according to video footage. Rebels berated them, calling them "Assad's Dogs", before firing round after round into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

The highway linking the capital Damascus to the contested city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial center, has been the scene of heavy fighting since rebels cut the road last month. Saraqeb lies about 40 km (25 miles) south of Aleppo

In other developments, China put forward a new initiative to resolve the 19-month-old conflict, including a phased, region-by-region ceasefire and the setting up of a transitional governing body.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing had made the proposal to international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi - whose own call for a truce over the Muslim holiday of Eid was largely ignored by both sides.

The United States meanwhile has called for an overhaul of Syria's opposition leadership, signaling a break with the largely foreign-based Syrian National Council to bring in more credible figures.

A meeting in Qatar next week of foreign powers backing the rebels will be an opportunity to broaden the coalition against President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Zagreb on Wednesday.

The United States and its allies have struggled for months to craft a credible opposition coalition, while Assad has counted on the support of Russia, Iran and, to a lesser extent, China. International efforts to end the violence have all foundered.

More than 32,000 people have been killed since protests against Assad, an Alawite who succeeded his late father Hafez in ruling the mostly Sunni Muslim country, first broke out on city streets. The revolt has since degenerated into full-scale civil war, with the government forces relying heavily on artillery and air strikes to thwart the rebels.

CHECKPOINT ATTACKS

The army has lost swathes of land in Idlib and Aleppo provinces but is fighting to control towns along supply routes to Aleppo city, where its forces are fighting in many districts.

The head of the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdelrahman, said two of the attacked checkpoints at Saraqeb were on the Damascus-Aleppo highway. The third was near a road linking Aleppo with Latakia, a port city still mostly controlled Assad's forces.

"The rebels will not stay at the checkpoints for long as Syrian warplanes normally bomb positions after rebels move in," Abdelrahman said.

Five rebels died in the fighting and at least 20 soldiers were killed at the third site, including those shot after surrendering, he said.

The video footage showed a group of petrified men, some bleeding, lying on the ground as rebels walked around, kicking and stamping on their captives.

One of the captured men says: "I swear I didn't shoot anyone" to which a rebel responds: "Shut up you animal ... Gather them for me." Then the men are shot dead.

Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

The Observatory said the al Qaeda-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group was responsible for the executions.

Islamist rebel units are growing in prominence in the war - a cause for concern for international powers as they weigh up what kind of support to give the opposition.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has said it is not providing arms to internal opponents of Assad and is limiting its aid to non-lethal humanitarian assistance. It concedes, however, that some of its allies are providing lethal assistance.

Russia and China have blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at increasing pressure on the Assad government, leading the United States and its allies to say they could move beyond U.N. structures for their next steps.

China has been strongly criticized by some Arab countries for failing to take a stronger stance on the conflict. Beijing has urged the Assad government to talk to the opposition and take steps to meet demands for political change.

"More and more countries have come to realize that a military option offers no way out, and a political settlement has become an increasingly shared aspiration," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing.

He said China's new proposal was aimed at building international consensus and supporting peace envoy Brahimi's mediation efforts.

(Additional reporting by Ayat Basma, Laila Bassam and Dominic Evans in Beirut and Terril Yue Jones in Beijing; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (18)
carlloeber wrote:
President Obama should have given aid to the rebels 583 days ago .. he could have sent his flying robots to remove Hitler in Damascus ..

President Obama said it in masterful words himself last year .. March 28, 2011, “when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.” www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/03/28/president-obama-s-speech-libya

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” (Except in an election year?)

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” (Except in an election year)

“And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”
I have been to Aleppo and never met a kinder people ..

President Clinton watched mass murder in Bosnia for a year .. waiting for the Kremlin to give him the OK to stop it .. finally he manned up to using force to stop the mass murder ..

Wasn’t it someone named Obama who said “Never Again” ?

Nov 01, 2012 1:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Progression wrote:
@carlloeber

And those rebels in Libya turned around and murdered and then raped our ambassador. Of course helping the rebels in Libya was not a lap in the face to Russia and Iran. You would really risk WW3 in order to support Islamists? Be very careful what you ask for.

Nov 01, 2012 1:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MetalHead8 wrote:
@Carloeber, I agree. If Obama helped them in the beggining, this would have never happened

Nov 01, 2012 2:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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