Isil beheads two women and crucifies men
ISIL jihadists have beheaded two women in Syria for sorcery, an extension of the punishment which is normally reserved for men.
The women and their husbands were all accused of witchcraft - one couple in the town of Mayadeen, in eastern Deir Ezzour province, and one in Deir Ezzour city, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.
Five people in all in Mayadeen were beheaded, the others on charges of "banditry" and "drugs", with two of the men then crucified.
The case marks the first time a woman civilian is recorded as having been beheaded, though the punishment has been inflicted on women soldiers from the Kurdish militia, the YPJ, the female version of the YPG.
Women have been stoned to death for adultery.
Sorcery, in Islamic countries, usually means fortune-telling, a practice that is specifically outlawed in the Koran but remains popular. It also attracts the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
Isil remains committed to implementing a hardline version of sharia in territories it controls, despite its unpopularity.
The beheadings took place in the eastern Deir al-Zor province this week, said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict using sources on the ground.
One of the women was beheaded along with her husband in Deir al-Zor city. In al-Mayadeen city to the south east, the group beheaded another woman and her husband. All of them were accused of sorcery, the monitor said.
Islamic State has beheaded local and foreign men in Syria, including enemy combatants, aid workers and journalists as well as people it has deemed as violating its hardline interpretation of Islamic law.
Several of the group's female captives have been stoned to death previously after being accused of adultery and other offences. This is the first time it was reported to have beheaded female civilians.
Islamic State also "crucified" five men in al-Mayadeen for eating during daylight hours of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Observatory said.
They were hung up by their limbs on the city wall and children were encouraged to mock them as they suffered, it added.
Activists say Islamic State uses such public punishments in areas where it is present to control the local population through coercion and fear. Many refugees say Isil's strict rule was welcomed initially as a counter-measure to widespread corruption and banditry as Syria fell apart, but that it is increasingly resented.
A number of people, including teenage boys, have been "crucified" - suspended by their wrists in public but not to death - for failing to observe the Ramadan fast, which began earlier in June.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is condemning the fighting and use of heavy weapons by Syrian armed forces and opposition fighters in the area that has separated Syrian and Israel forces since 1974.
A resolution co-sponsored by Russia and the United States and adopted unanimously by the council on Monday calls on parties to the Syrian conflict to halt all military action in the area of separation. It warns that military activities in the zone can escalate Syrian-Israeli tensions.
The resolution extends the mandate of the 750-strong peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights until December 31.
For nearly four decades, UN monitors from the force have helped enforce a stable truce between Israel and Syria. But the Golan Heights has increasingly become a battlefield in the Syrian conflict, now in its fifth year. Meanwhile, a senior Israeli defence official claimed yesterday that President Assad controlled just a fifth of Syria and may end up in charge of a rump state dominated by his minority Alawite sect.
Israel and Syria are long-term enemies, but the remarks by Amos Gilad, strategic adviser to Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, reflect concerns by states across the region that Syria is undergoing a de facto partition after four years of civil war.
"Syria is gone. Syria is dying. The funeral will be declared in due time. This Bashar Assad, he will be remembered in history textbooks as the one who lost Syria," Gilad told an intelligence conference organised by the Israel Defence journal yesterday. "Until now he has lost 75pc of Syria." (© Daily Telegraph, London)