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Syrian Opposition Condemns 'Large-Scale Massacre' by Government Forces

Syria's main opposition is accusing President Bashar al-Assad's government of committing a "large-scale massacre" in a northwest village, where activists say military forces killed dozens of civilians.

Citing witness accounts, the Syrian National Coalition said Friday that troops executed at least 150 people in the village of Bayda on Thursday, including women and children. There was no independent confirmation.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, says it has documented at least 50 deaths from the incident. But it said the actual toll may be much higher, since many have disappeared.

The rights group said those executed were "shot to death, stabbed, or set on fire."

The group added that government forces have begun raiding homes in the Sunni areas of the region of Banias, also located in the northwest, and it fears another massacre could take place there.

Bayda is mainly inhabited by Sunni Muslims, who dominate the country's rebel movement. But the village is located just south of Banias, which is home to many members of the Alawite minority sect to which Mr. Assad belongs.

In its statement Friday, the Syrian National Council called on the international community to intervene to stop Mr. Assad's "grievous crimes," which it said constitute war crimes and genocide.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday the Obama administration is reconsidering arming the rebels, but said no final decisions had been reached. The U.S. has been providing non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels.

The White House has said evidence suggests possible government use of chemical weapons during the fighting - something Mr. Obama has said would represent a "red line."

Rights groups have accused both government and rebel forces of committing war crimes during the conflict, which has killed at least 70,000 people.

On Friday, Amnesty International said both sides have killed, arrested, and tortured dozens of journalists since the 2011 uprising began. The report, which was released on International Press Freedom Day, said both all sides are committing war crimes, but said the scale of abuse by government forces are much greater.

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