Two days after airstrikes and shelling by Syrian regime forces killed at least 70 people in a suburb east of Damascus, a video has emerged that purportedly shows rebel fighters in the area holding members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite religious group in cages.
The footage was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday by the Shaam News Network, a Syrian activist media group. It is said to show captives being driven through the streets of a town in eastern Ghouta, an area in the Damascus countryside, in a metal cages mounted on the backs of trucks.
On Friday, an attack on a public marketplace in Douma, a town in eastern Ghouta, killed scores of people and wounded 550. Activists said the rebels paraded the caged prisoners through the streets in an effort to deter the Assad regime from launching additional airstrikes against their positions. One of the caged captives interviewed in the video identifies himself as a member of the Alawites, a Shia minority group that counts the Assad family as members.
Jaysh al-Islam, a rebel group that is active in eastern Ghouta, was reportedly responsible for the caged prisoners. A Twitter account associated with the group retweeted photos of the cages, but the rebels have not formally claimed responsibility. It's unclear whether the prisoners were being caged indefinitely, or if the rebels staged the incident for propaganda purposes.
There's tremendous tension in Syria between Alawites, who account for about 12 percent of the country's estimated pre-war population of 22 million, and Sunni Muslims, who comprise about 70 percent of the population. Alawites are largely seen as enablers of the Assad regime, founded more than four decades ago by the current president's late father Hafez al-Assad.
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