Syrian rebels clashing with pro-Assad forces in the city of Aleppo have been accused of publicly executing fighters and targeting people in their homes.
After 12 days of clashes, which president Bashar al-Assad says will determine the fate of Syria, the fighting in Aleppo remains a stalemate.
As the bloody battle continues, Human Rights Watch has condemned the public shooting of pro-regime militiamen by rebels in the city.
Video footage posted on the internet appears to show rebels executing four captured pro-regime militia fighters.
Separate footage shows 15 bodies, but neither video has been independently verified.
Middle East correspondent Matt Brown, who is in a town just outside Aleppo, told AM he has seen signs the rebels may be committing human rights violations.
In the town that I lived in, many homes were daubed with graffiti supporting the regime, extolling the virtues of the president. So there were signs there of a population that was bold, assertive and if not confident at least defiant in the face of the rebels.
One in particular that was talking about the beauty of the feared secret police in its graffiti on the front wall had been targeted with the front gate blown in.
You can’t be sure but there are signs there that the rebels are also targeting people who are in their homes who may not have been fighting back.
I couldn’t see any signs of firing coming out of those homes for example.
Rebels still control large parts of Aleppo, despite ongoing strikes by pro-Assad forces backed by artillery and helicopter gunships.
The United Nations says it fears the crossfire in Aleppo is growing more deadly.
The UN says rebel fighters are moving tanks and heavy weapons into the city to try to match the superior firepower of government forces.
Brown says he is surprised by the rebels’ resources and organisation.
Where we were today they’ve seized tanks, they’ve seized the ammunition that was in this checkpoint, a fairly large military post and I’ve got to say also captured around a dozen soldiers.
It is hit and run in some cases, a sustained assault in the case of Aleppo and small groups operating with some coordination.
And I wonder, when I look at footage the rebels have shown us of these captured soldiers, you know, just how many of the defections they’re getting are voluntary and how many are forced.
I can imagine, given what I’ve seen today, that quite a number feel they are left with very little choice.
Since July 20, the battle between the rebels and government forces has focused on Aleppo, the country’s commercial capital.
Around half of the dead on Tuesday were in Aleppo, but fighting continues in other areas across Syria.
On Tuesday 154 people – among them 35 civilians, 63 soldiers and 27 rebels – were killed in violence nationwide.
[In Aleppo] there are signs that the regime is using anti-personnel artillery.
It’s the type that bursts in the air, tears through flesh but also leaves deep pockmarks on asphalt and concrete and the place was absolutely riddled with bullet holes.
But the government is still pounding Daara and Homs also which for so long bore the brunt of the government’s counter-attack against the rebellion.
That is also still today the scene of conflict with the government attacking there.
To underscore the scale of the unrest, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighting between soldiers and rebels broke out on Wednesday for the first time near two Christian districts of Damascus.
“Fighting erupted at dawn on Wednesday on the outskirts of the Bab Tuma and Bab Sharqi neighbourhoods. First indications are that one soldier has been killed,” the Britain-based group said in a statement.
“This is fighting in areas where it has not happened before. These are areas where the rebels have so far not had access.”
According to the Observatory, more than 20,000 people have been killed since the uprising broke out in mid-March last year.
There is no way to independently verify the figure, while the UN has stopped keeping count.
Photo: Free Syrian Army fighters with a captured policeman and alleged pro-regime militiaman in Aleppo on July 31 (AFP: Emin Ozmen)