International rights groups cried foul on Wednesday after gory footage purporting to show Syrian rebels publicly executing suspected Assad militiamen surfaced online.
The 2-minute video shows fighters carrying Kalashnikovs line up a group of men against a wall and shoot them execution-style in a deafening minute of gunfire.
Some of the men look wounded as they are led down a flight of stairs and guided to what appears to be a schoolyard wall painted with children's drawings, such as Mickey Mouse playing soccer. The crowd chants "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) repeatedly before the gunmen open fire. When the dust clears, the cameraman focuses in on the prisoners' dead bodies.
WARNING: The video below contains graphic footage.
Another video purportedly shows the same men, bloodied and sitting in a schoolroom, giving their names to the camera.
In an ongoing battle that has pitted the Syrian regime against rebel fighters, the government's brutal tactics to crush the opposition are condemned frequently. Assad's forces have been accused of atrocities including sniper attacks, torture, and summary executions.
Activists also claim the government uses militias called "shabiha" to crack down on opponents. This enables the regime to deny any wrongdoing and point to "armed gangs" as responsible for the violence. The opposition claims shabiha were behind the Houla massacre, in which dozens of women and children were killed.
However, the violent footage making rounds Wednesday added to a growing pool of evidence showing abuses committed by Syria's opposition fighters.
Human Rights Watch's Nadim Houry told The New York Times that the actions constituted a crime. "Intentionally killing anyone, even a shabiha, once he is outside of combat is a war crime, regardless of how horrible the person may have been," Houry said.
Despite widespread condemnation by international rights groups, some activists argued that the killings were fair retribution for the regime's crimes against its people, and that the rebels need not show mercy to regime loyalists.
Fighting in Syria's second city and economic hub, Aleppo, continues into its second week. On Wednesday, rebels reportedly took control of three police stations as the regime sent in helicopter gunships in an effort to drive out the rebels. The battle for Aleppo is regarded as an important test for both sides as the rebels gain ground and the Assad regime wavers after the death of four of its top officials in July.
Activists estimate that over 19,000 people have died since the uprising began in March 2011, with at least 2,750 killed last month.