- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Syrian opposition coalition on Thursday condemned a video that purportedly shows rebels executing seven soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The video, obtained by The New York Times, shows armed fighters believed to be members of the rebel group Jund al-Sham standing over seven shirtless men kneeling face-down before them. The men then are shot in the head. The hands of five victims are tied behind their bare backs, which show signs of torture.

“The Syrian Coalition and the Supreme Military Council want to make it absolutely clear that they, and all mainstream opposition groups, condemn in the strongest possible terms any actions that contravene international law,” the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, also known as the Syrian Coalition, said in a statement from Istanbul.

The coalition’s armed wing, the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, is led by Gen. Salim Idriss, who defected from Mr. Assad’s army last year.

“[K]illing or mistreating captured soldiers, or those who have surrendered, is an affront to the hopes and principles that fueled the initial popular uprising against the Assad regime,” the coalition said.

The video was filmed in April near Idlib, a city in northwestern Syria, and is being aired as Congress considers authorizing President Obama to launch a limited military strike on the Assad regime for an Aug. 21 chemical weapon attack.

In the video, Abdul Samad Issa, the rebel group’s 37-year-old commander, reads a revolutionary verse and then leads his fighters in executing the soldiers.

Reports of atrocities committed by Syrian rebels have put a cloud over the opposition.

Western officials are concerned about the role played by the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Both groups have ties to al Qaeda.

The groups, which are dominant in the northern parts of Syria, don’t recognize the authority of the Syrian opposition coalition or Gen. Idriss, according to opposition sources.

The Syrian Coalition said the Assad regime’s “scorched-earth policy has resulted in an explosion of banditry, extremism and lawlessness.”

“The [Syrian Military Council] and its [Free Syrian Army] units have done their [utmost] to limit the damage the regime’s actions are inflicting on Syrian society. However, the escalation of the conflict and the fact they are the least well-equipped military actor on the ground, limits the FSA’s ability to establish full control over the situation,” the coalition said.

In November, several opposition groups came together under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces at a meeting in the Qatari capital Doha.

Opposition officials say the international community must provide them with arms to give them a real chance to prevent extremists from dominating the conflict.

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against the Assad regime in March 2011, according to the United Nations.



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