Syrian rebel atrocity video: No apology for ‘revenge’, more clips promised

Syrian rebel atrocity video: No apology for ‘revenge’, more clips promised
A chilling tape of a Syrian rebel apparently eating the heart of a slain government soldier has prompted calls on the opposition to prevent such abuses. However the fighter has also reportedly had support from within his ranks for his “act of revenge.”

The video, 27 seconds of footage, was first spotted in April, with the TIME magazine conducting a probe into whether it had been faked for propaganda purposes. On Sunday, the clip emerged on a pro-regime website, triggering a wave of rage online.

Human rights organizations, as well as his fellow rebels, have condemned the rebel.

However, Khalid Hamad, known by his war nickname Abu Sakkar, didn’t seem to regret his behavior much, labeling it as revenge: “an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth.”

In an interview with TIME magazine, he commented on his actions: “We opened his cell phone, and I found a clip of a woman and her two daughters fully naked and he was humiliating them, and poking a stick here and there.”

Hamad says as a Sunni he hates Alawite Muslims, which once again signals of the increasingly sectarian side of the Syrian conflict. UN warned of it as early as in December last year.

“Hopefully we will slaughter all of [the Alawites]. I have another video clip that I will send to them. In the clip, I am sawing another shabiha [pro-government militiaman] with a saw. The saw we use to cut trees. I sawed him into small pieces and large ones,” Hamad said in the interview. The rebel was initially reported to have taken out the liver and heart, but later it was concluded that it was a lung he was holding in his hands.

Khaled al-Hamad, a rebel fighter known as Abu Sakkar and commander of the Omar al-Faruq brigade in Homs, Syria, holding the heart of a Syrian government soldier after cutting it out from his dead body.(AFP Photo / YouTube)

The Supreme Military Council has already compiled a poster calling for Hamad’s arrest, saying it wants him “dead or alive” on official Damascus’s behalf.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch issued a report on the matter, saying the rebel was also to blame for the cross-border bombing of a Lebanese village that left two killed not long ago.

“It is not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government,” Nadim Houry, the watchdog’s deputy director for the Middle East, told TIME magazine.

“The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.” However with recent reports showcasing lack of unity in the opposition ranks, a unified response to such acts may stay only in the form of calls. The Red Cross for instance brings the following report from within Syria.

“Sometimes it can take more than two weeks of negotiations with both sides. With armed groups, maybe half of them will accept and with half we still have to negotiate. Even if you get the green light from both sides, you would have some groups or snipers who would not really follow instructions and would shoot at anyone who is trying to cross,” head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team Marianne Gasser told Reuters.

But while some of the opposition factions denounce Hamad’s actions, there are supporters who make portraits of him with the inscription “We Love You.”

Syrian Turkmen rebels run across a street controlled by regime forces to dodge sniper fire in the Hanano district of the northern city of Aleppo on January 28, 2013 (AFP Photo / Jm Lopez)

“These types of atrocities have been happening in Syria since the beginning of the crisis. The international community just didn’t want to admit it,” Ali Haider, Syria’s minister for reconciliation, told the Telegraph.  

The minister also pointed out that they had documents that were as “horrific” as the video featuring Hamad.

“We have seen one of our pilot’s heads cut off and cooked on a grill. We have seen rebels toasting their success by drinking the blood of their victims,” he claimed.

All this comes as the UK and France urge for the arms embargo on Syria to be lifted in order to supply the opposition with weapons. This has already drawn criticism from allies, with Austria reportedly circulating a discussion paper among the EU member states on Tuesday pressing that such a move would violate the international law.

Lifting the embargo would "constitute a breach of international and EU law" and be contrary to the "principle of non-intervention and non-use of force" laid down in the UN Charter, Austrian press quoted the document. If the weapons fall with al-Nusra Front opposition group, it would also violate UN Security Council resolutions on Al-Qaeda, given al-Nusra's recent affiliation claims.

At least 70,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began just over two years ago, according to the UN, putting the number of displaced Syrians at more than 850,000.