News / Middle East

    Outrage Mounts Over Syria Massacre

    Citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria, July 12, 2012.
    Citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria, July 12, 2012.
    Mark SnowissEdward Yeranian
    What activists are calling the worst of three large-scale massacres in Syria since late May is sparking widespread outrage, with U.N. envoy Kofi Annan singling out the Syrian government for the violence and the opposition demanding swift international action.

    With unusual candor, Annan Friday blamed government forces and armed militiamen backed by tanks and helicopters for slaughtering as many as 220 people in the Sunni farming village of Tremseh, in rebellious Hama province.

    Condemning what he called "atrocities" and voicing shock at the "intense fighting, significant casualties and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry," Annan said the Syrian government had violated its commitments to the peace plan he brokered in April.


    Rebel backers claim the attack on Thursday was the worst single act of violence since the country's revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

    The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood also blamed Assad for the reported massacre and what it called Syria's foreign backers, including Russia, Iran and Annan. Protests broke out in multiple cities across Syria Friday, with demonstrators condemning the killings in Tremseh.

    Syrian state media blamed the massacre on dozens of terrorists who overran Tremseh, killing and wounding dozens of civilians. It said the attackers "ransacked, destroyed and burned scores of houses" before "competent authorities" arrived.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that credible reports provided indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.

    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the massacre casts "serious doubts" on Syrian President Assad's commitment to a U.N. backed peace plan.

    UN debates new sanctions

    Report of the massacre comes as the U.N. Security Council debates imposing tough new sanctions on Syria.  Russia has once again threatened to veto any sanctions. 

    Massacres Reported in Syria

    • May 25: More than 100 people killed in Taldou in Houla.
    • June 6: More than 70 people killed in Mazraat-al-Qubeir in Hama.
    • July 13: More than 150 people killed in Tremseh in Hama.
    Norwegian Gen. Robert Mood told journalists in Damascus that U.N. observers based in Hama witnessed "continuous fighting in the area of Tremseh ... which involved mechanized units, indirect fire, as well as helicopters." Mood added that observers were prepared to go to Tremseh if a cease-fire is in place:

    The White House said further "atrocities" in Syria by Assad's government should end any doubts on the need for a coordinated international response at the United Nations.

    The Syrian National Council, the country's main exiled opposition group, called on the Security Council to "assume total responsibility to protect defenseless Syrians against these shameful crimes."

    At a news conference in Istanbul, opposition leader Abdel Basset Syeda said responsibility for the massacre goes to the Syrian government's ally Russia, which he says has become "part of the conflict." Friendly nations, Syeda said, must "move from words to action" and "show real friendship."

    Call for action

    Syeda said the Syrian opposition is sending a delegation to the U.N. to press for quick action.

    Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London told VOA that it is a mistake for the international community to wait.

    "Non-intervention bears a higher cost than intervention," he said. "It is wrong to wait for a massacre that is big enough to trigger an intervention. The international community, by not protecting the civilians, are turning what was originally a non-violent revolt against the regime into a civil war."

    Rafif Jouejati, a spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group with members throughout Syria, said the death toll from Thursday's attack could rise higher as more casualties are confirmed. She says a "consistent pattern" has emerged, where each attempt by the international community to reach a political solution in Syria is met by the Damascus government with a calculated escalation in violence.

    Another activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it has confirmed the names of 63 people killed in the attack on Thursday, and expects the final toll to be far higher.

    VOA cannot confirm events on the ground in Syria because the government severely restricts access for international journalists.
     
    Deaths Across SyriaDeaths Across Syria
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    Deaths Across Syria
    Deaths Across Syria
    The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama said Tremseh was first shelled, then invaded by pro-government militiamen of Assad's Alawite sect, who swept in and killed victims one by one. It said some civilians were killed while trying to flee.

    Multiple reports quoting activists and witnesses said a convoy of vehicles from nearby Alawite villages surrounded Tremseh early Thursday. Militiamen then blockaded the settlement and began randomly firing on houses as a helicopter flew overhead. Electricity and telephone lines were cut. Bodies were later recovered from fields, private homes and the nearby Orontes River.

    The previous largest massacre in Syria took place in nearby Houla, when 108 men, women and children were killed on May 25 - the vast majority of them executed, according to a United Nations report. In June, it took U.N. monitors two days to reach the site of an alleged massacre of 78 people shot, stabbed or burned alive in the Sunni hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir by pro-government shabiha militiamen.

    Most Assad loyalists - including the shabiha - are minority Alawites, who form a branch of Shi'ite Islam. The street protesters and fighters behind the uprising are mostly Sunni Muslims.

    Activist groups have put the death toll in the 16-month-old conflict at more than 17,000 people.

    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider firing his weapon during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers at the border town of Azaz, 32 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider driving a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show a helicopter gunship flying a bombing run in al-Qalmoun, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image provided by Shaam News Network shows smoke rising from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show damage from heavy shelling of the al-Qadam district of Damascus, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army points his weapon through a hole in a wall as he takes up a defense position in a house in Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 16, 2012.
    • A woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers northwest of Hama, July 14, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers aim their weapons in Idlib, northern Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011 purports to show a funeral for victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012. (AP/ Hama Revolution 2011)
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011purports to show families gathered around bodies of victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army walk through Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 15, 2012.
     US concerns about chemical weapons

    Meanwhile, the United States says the international community will hold Syrian officials accountable if they fail to meet their duty to safeguard the country's stockpiles of chemical weapons.
     
    State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the U.S. has repeatedly warned Syria it is obligated to protect those weapons.
     
    Nuland made her comments after a prominent U.S. newspaper reported that Syria has started moving part of its chemical weapons arsenal out of storage facilities.
     
    The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. officials as saying Syria may use the weapons against rebels or civilians.
     
    Syria is believed to have reserves of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide.
     
    Throughout the conflict in Syria, the newspaper said, U.S. officials and their allies in the region have been watching for changes in the status or location of Syria's alleged chemical weapons.
     
    VOA's Snowiss reported from Washington and Yeranian from Cairo. Some information came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: Barugahare Isaac from: Uganda-Africa
    July 14, 2012 2:13 AM
    This Americans should leave Syrians alone because for them they call themselves supper powers but we all know how dangerous they are See what happened to Iraq.Libya when they involved themselve
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 16, 2012 12:36 PM
    Yea elected governments came in to power, which is good for the people and not the best interests of the dictator. Being involved, and trying to help atrocities from happening or worsening is a good thing. The west is doing everything it can. Overall it is great now that Iraqis and Libyan people can elect governments, give it time it is in its infancy. In 5-10 years those places will be better places. It takes time.

    by: Thach Vakim from: Khmerkrom
    July 14, 2012 12:17 AM
    All these results because of China and bloody Russian hands of Putin that supplied the weapon to kill armless Syrian people. Syrian people will keep in mind well on these silent-killers, China and Russia. Everything, the West, Arab States and Uncle Sam try to do, China and Russia oppose at once. These both countries make Syria becoming second Killing-fields like Cambodia.
    In Response

    by: dom ant from: australia
    July 15, 2012 9:29 AM
    Hey Thach, you forget to mention who supplies the weapons to the so called armless syrian people, and if they were armless syrian people, the conflict should have been cleaned up many months ago. everyone has their own agenda to push, and who do you believe?? unless you're in syria in the towns or cities to see it with your own eyes.In every conflict the first casualty is the TRUTH

    by: Mohamed Kabani from: Texas
    July 13, 2012 8:57 PM
    I am shocked how naive we have become. The proof is in the pudding. If the Syrian regime has been so innocent, fighting terrorists, why so many army commanders and soldiers have defected????? if that was the case, no one would defect. They would all be fighting for their country. However, they are defecting since they cannot stand the innocent massacres any longer. Additionally, all what is happening in Syria is not new. The whole middle east region is very familiar with the Assad massacres that have been going on for years.

    by: Diana from: Colombia
    July 13, 2012 8:47 PM
    The multiple massacres in Syria show us that sometimes the right humans could be overwhelmed to fulfill the interests of a minority, not even considering if what is taken are innocent lives, like those of the kids who were slaughtered. This isn't only a problem of Syria, we all have to be concerned of this cruelty and be committed to end it. We all have to raise our voice and ban the spilling out of blood in Syria.

    by: USAForever from: New York
    July 13, 2012 7:19 PM
    Putin needs to be placed next to Lenin ASAP.

    by: Daniel Mariscal from: Gualala, California
    July 13, 2012 6:45 PM
    On The Path.
    by Daniel Mariscal on Friday, July 13, 2012 at 3:36pm ·
    To eliminate a series of negative repercussions, we must confront our ego's. If necessary, give the reigns of control to demonstrate our flexibility to the process. Faith in God gives us strength and allows us to survive until the truth rises to the top.
    It takes a lot to be a real leader, but God knows our hearts and what's best for everyone. When all is said and done, what would you like to be said about your family's legacy?

    by: Noreen from: Germany
    July 13, 2012 6:08 PM
    another "massacre"... hey, Arabs... the word has lost its poignancy... there is no more sympathy for your "plight" - you see there is a saturation point beyond which we simply don't care... solve your own problems... and just remember - no one forced you to live in brutal dictatorships... you did it to yourself... and no one is forcing you to live under totalitarian Islamic law... you are doing it to yourself... no one is forcing you to hate Israel and the West... do you understand ARABS??? so, now you have ANOTHER massacre... good for you... the word from the European street is - congratulations... may you have many more to come... just stay away from Europe please.

    by: high plains drifter from: billcarson99966@yahoo.com
    July 13, 2012 2:39 PM
    i don't believe a word of this report. this is nothing more than psychological informational electronic news war put out by disinfo agents.. sorry , not buying it boys. the president of syria is no walk in the park, but many of us know full well the real reasons for this war i syria.
    In Response

    by: Yooper2001 from: thailand
    July 13, 2012 8:03 PM
    so after 15.000 dead people you still do not beleive, you think this is made up by the press. Ignorance is bliss




    by: James Power from: Dublin. Ireland
    July 13, 2012 2:20 PM
    All roads lead to Iran.
    Why would Assad do exactly what the US and Isreal want - a reason to go in there ? Did we not have the same propaganda before Iraq ?.
    Does anyone really think the US or Israel give a damn about how many have died in Syria?
    What's next chemical weapons used and Assad to get the blame?.
    The seed has already been sown that he MIGHT use them.
    Time to wake up people.


    by: Robert Walsh from: USA
    July 13, 2012 2:17 PM
    hey Arabs... stop trying to exploit our sensitivities... we have no sympathy for you or those like you... "Massacre" well - go to hell

    and take the Palestinians with you
    In Response

    by: J Logan from: USA
    July 14, 2012 8:41 AM
    These are the same folks that have been aiding, training and supplying the insurgents in Iraq that have killed more than 4,000 military forces. Bottom line is that these countries are still stuck in the stone age with their tribal mentality and blind loyalty to a religion due to lack of education. They don't want democracy - Let them be.
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