Members of a Syrian army division under the command of President Bashar al-Assad’s brother drove rebels out of the northern Damascus district of Barzeh on Sunday and summarily executed several young men, a witness and opposition activists said.
“At least 20 Fourth Division tanks and hundreds of its members entered Barzeh this afternoon. I saw troops go into the home of 26-year-old Issa al-Arab. They left him dead with two bullets in his head,” opposition activist Abu Kais said by phone from the district.
He said people sheltering from the fighting in a building in Jadat al-Maarad street had told him of the summary execution of a 17-year-old, Issa Wahbeh, who had been pulled from the shelter and beaten and shot after soldiers examined his mobile phone.
“Whatever they saw, they killed him for it. They then dressed Wahbeh in fatigues and put a rifle in his hands and brought an al-Dounia crew to film him,” he said, referring to a semi-official television channel linked to the security apparatus.
Kais also saw the bodies of four other young men. Mazen, another opposition activist in Barzeh, said these bodies had been found on the Osh al-Warwar road and near the government complex of al-Khadamat. All appeared to have been shot at point blank range.
“Five more bodies were reported found elsewhere in Barzeh, but we have not determined whether they died from shelling or were executed,” Mazen said.
Barzeh is a mostly Sunni Muslim district that has been at the forefront of anti-Assad demonstrations in the capital, which have gradually given way to an armed insurgency against his rule.
The district is adjacent to Ush al-Warwar, a hilltop enclave housing thousands of pro-Assad shabbiha militiamen and secret police. These mostly belong to Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.