Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, including many women and children, have been killed by the Myanmar military in the past week, according to activists.

"When they [Myanmar military] arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks," Aziz Khan, a resident of one of the targeted villages, told Al Jazeera.

"Women and children were also among the dead," he said. "Even a baby wasn't spared."

The violence is ongoing in the state of Rakhine, home to some 1.1 million Rohingya people. 

While authorities in Myanmar say the number of dead is around 100, activists say at least 800 have been killed. Officially, the military says the operation is intended to crack down on terrorism, but the indiscriminate killings suggest otherwise.

"Violence is definitely escalating," Ryan McCabe, who works with the non-profit Partners Relief & Development, which provides aid to Rohingya refugees, told StepFeed.

He said there is "mass displacement of Rohingya fleeing towards the Bangladesh border, military firing on fleeing civilians, and armed groups on both sides."

Following years of oppression and marginalization in Myanmar, some of the Rohingya have formed an armed militia called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The Myanmar government does not provide the Muslim-minority community legal recognition, considering them to be illegal immigrants despite the fact they've lived in the country for generations.

The Rohingya Muslim community lives in wide-spread poverty and faces constant discrimination and persecution from the Buddhist majority population. Tens of thousands have fled as refugees, mainly to Bangladesh.

"The government is obviously gonna say terrorists, but I would argue that the government ... and even local populations are the greater terrorists here," McCabe said.

"Within Myanmar, even groups that are also fighting the government like the Shan or the Kachin, view Muslims unfavorably, and the reigning sentiment in Myanmar is that they're outsiders, and therefore they deserve anything that happens to them," he explained.

McCabe also explained that Myanmar's military has historically used extremely brutal techniques to crack down on the community.

"Rape campaigns, torture, and yes, killing children. I've heard recent reports of children burned in military arson campaigns, but it's very likely it's even worse than that," he said.

rohingya muslim
A young Rohingya boy Source: Partners Relief & Development

The United Nations has equated Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya population to ethnic cleansing. The government denies the charge but also has refused to cooperate with UN fact finding missions.

Despite the ongoing horrors and regular atrocities perpetrated against the Muslim minority, there is little international interest in addressing the crisis.

"The most heartbreaking thing for me is the lack of interest regarding this issue," McCabe said.

"These people are at the bottom of the totem pole. I've never seen hopelessness in anyone like I've seen in their eyes," he said.