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
x
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

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Comments page of 2
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs