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

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Carlos from: US
    July 13, 2012 2:15 PM
    President Obama is too much a coward to do anything during the re-election .. so he should agree with Romney to come together and make a joint announcement that they both agree that the US should take military action and lead with air power .. John McCain will give them guidance if the President can't figure out what to do ..


    by: Samir Haddad
    July 13, 2012 1:18 PM
    The west should destroy every power plant, every water treatment station and all airports in Syria. Let Assad suffer like he is making the innocent children of Syria suffer.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 14, 2012 8:48 AM
    "USA and the Arab Princes should stop sending arms for the "rebels" who are not Syrian but are from different Arab countries including members of Al Quaeda"... nice acusation... Where is your proof?
    "If USA is very concerned about violence in an autonomous country like Syria why is it that those leaders ignore the violence in Mexico that has killed 50,000 people caused by advise from our present government to unleash the Army in the streets?" Different conflicts that would take more than a paragraph to explain if you don't have a political/military strategist background.
    Also if we are interested in protecting the people why don't we create a nonflying area in Quatar since they have killed and suppressed people's rights to democracy? Have you been to Quatar? Have you talked to the locals? how about the third country nationals? The situation is not as bleak as the news make it look.
    Finally, if we are such a great lovers of democracy why do we side with the Princes of Arabia when they suppress freedom? Again, have you talked to a saudi? or a third country national (TCNs)? Take the information the media feeds you with a grain of salt.
    In Response

    by: tom from: OZ
    July 13, 2012 8:47 PM
    Totally... because a violent military invasion, no water, sewerage or power is EXACTLY what those innocent children need right now...
    In Response

    by: Roy Jimenez from: Chicago, IL
    July 13, 2012 2:23 PM
    Atrocities reported need to have a comment from the Syrian government to have a degree of accuracy.
    USA and the Arab Princes should stop sending arms for the "rebels" who are not Syrian but are from different Arab countries including members of Al Quaeda.
    If USA is very concerned about violence in an autonomous country like Syria why is it that those leaders ignore the violence in Mexico that has killed 50,000 people caused by advise from our present government to unleash the Army in the streets?
    Also if we are interested in protecting the people why don't we create a nonflying area in Quatar since they have killed and suppressed people's rights to democracy?
    Finally, if we are such a great lovers of democracy why do we side with the Princes of Arabia when they suppress freedom?

    by: Anonymous from: America
    July 13, 2012 1:14 PM
    The time has come to decide how to end this monstrosity in Syria. The Assad Gangster Regime has clearly told the world that it is going to conduct open genocide against the Sunni population of Syria. It is time for NATO to use whatever means necessary to eliminate Assad, the Syrian Ba’ath Party, the Shabiha and the whatever supporters of the Assad butchers that reside in Syria. There must be a total air and sea embargo of any vessels coming or going to Syria. All global Syrian assets must be seized and frozen. The west must tell all global banks that any transactions that involve any Syrian entities will be seized and not returned until Assad is deposed. Period
    In Response

    by: dom ant from: australia
    July 15, 2012 9:43 AM
    how stupid to suggest an air sea embargo. dont you see that sanctions never work and the people that your supposed to protect you will also hurt with your embargo. sure i agree with freeze some offshore accounts.

    by: Eric W from: Philadelphia
    July 13, 2012 1:13 PM
    May the Syrian Revolution be as sucessful as the American and French Revolutions. You can do it, Syrians. Get rid of this dictator calling himself your leader. He is a coward that hides behind the atrocities, blaming it on the catch word of our time: terrorists. He is as bad as George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler. Win!

    by: Bart from: USA
    July 13, 2012 11:39 AM
    Children, along with full grown humans, are being massacred by an authoritarian regime. Why can't we, as a planet of fellow sentient creatures, defend those weaker and less fortunate than ourselves? Should we relegate their lives, their joys, and their pain to mere headlines? It is our own inaction and apathy that allows this suffering.
    In Response

    by: Bernie from: USA
    July 13, 2012 1:49 PM
    Because the United Nations is a USELESS organization that has no power and no teeth unless the United States, Great Britian, and Germany are backing it up. We, as a nation, are rightfully horrified by the violence but in the same respect we can't fight everyone's fight. Civil wars happen and civilians die.
    In Response

    by: joselopez from: USA
    July 13, 2012 1:46 PM
    Talk with your wallet, feed all the homeless people then ur world would exist till then realize if this happened in America it would be called terrorist attacks. Stop being a hypocrite. These people aren't peacefully protesting the government in Syria so no nation should try to help them till they come together. Which it's obvious they will not. Assad should remove the terrorist like America does in Pakistan*. Give Assad some drones to stop the criminals who are just fueled by more extreme entities.
    In Response

    by: Patrick from: USA
    July 13, 2012 12:42 PM
    hey fool, our apathy "stems" from the inveterate lies of Palestinians... those liars who have learned to trade on our Christian sympathies and exploit our compassion... well, no more... no more for them no more for any of the Arabs.... I am with you all the way Holly...

    by: Michael from: USA
    July 13, 2012 9:49 AM
    As of today, any conflict between the army and civorists a la belle etoile purges military intelligence on the ground, which ought to disable the heavy weaponry

    by: Noreen from: Germany
    July 13, 2012 7:02 AM
    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...
    In Response

    by: Zac
    July 13, 2012 11:54 AM
    The political situation left by European colonization lead to the dictatorships in the Middle East. Arab totalitarian dictatorships are also almost always at odds with the Islamists in their countries. Please read some history.

    by: Kirby Dawn from: UK
    July 13, 2012 6:44 AM
    Yeah, Yeah,.... but keep them in their countries... no muslime immigration to Europe.
    In Response

    by: JR from: BR
    July 13, 2012 2:34 PM
    The facts is not talking about immigration, but about a catastrophe that was happening there. It is necessary to be so selfish and to have a so hard heart to ignore this situation. The UN have to do something urgentely.
    In Response

    by: Fair from: USA
    July 13, 2012 1:23 PM
    Italy killed one million people ( half of the population) in Libya in ten years. Why?,
    France also killed one million people in Aljeria ( 1/6 of the population). Why?
    France killed 1/2 million in Syria , 400.000 in Tunisa and Marrocoo. Why?.
    USA killed more than a millions in Iraq, Vitnam, why?

    Then those killers left those countries with Dictators they created and supported to the killing job.
    In Response

    by: marc from: SoCal
    July 13, 2012 11:42 AM
    whatever...as long as they kill each other there. I could not care less about how many arabs die. They are primitive cave-dwellers and need to stay there.
    Comments page of 2
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