A view shows buildings destroyed by what activists say were
missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Erbeen, near
Damascus. REUTERS/Bassem El-Erbeen/Shaam News Network
Anti-government rebels have killed 28 soldiers 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 centre, has been the scene
of heavy fighting since rebels cut the road last month.
Saraqeb lies about 40km 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, signalling 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
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 goverment forces relying
heavily on artillery and air strikes to thwart the rebels.
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
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
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 criticised 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 realise 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