A major Syrian rebel group is using dozens of caged Alawites captives as “human shields” in the largest opposition stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus.

Jaish al-Islam, regarded as the most powerful rebel group near the capital, has put regime soldiers and Alawite civilians it was holding in metal cages.

The group then placed the caged Alawites in public squares in the Eastern Ghouta region in an attempt to “prevent regime bombardment”.

Activists told AFP:

“Jaish al-Islam is using these captives and kidnapped people — including whole families — as human shields.”

Government forces regularly bombard the Eastern Ghouta area, from where rebel groups fire rockets into the capital.

On Friday, at least 70 people were killed and 550 wounded in regime bombardment of Douma, a large town in the area.

A video of the caged Alawites (See below) showed cages of men and women, about five people in each, being transported on the backs of three lorries through war-ravaged streets as young children rode by on bicycles.

Speaking to camera, both men and women asked government forces to stop shelling Eastern Ghouta.

“Your women are our women. If you want to kill my mother, you will kill them too,” a dark-eyed teenage boy said outside one of the trucks.

Most of the civilians were kidnapped by Jaish al-Islam two years ago outside Adra al-Ummaliyah, a regime-held neighborhood in Eastern Ghouta.

A Jaish al-Islam spokesman was not reachable for comment.

Both regime forces and rebel groups have been criticized by rights groups for indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Syria’s war, which has killed more than 250,000 people since it began in March 2011.

AFP contributed to this article.

Video: Caged Alawites as Human Shields to Deter Barrel Bombs

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