News / Middle East

Syrian Sunnis Flee Coastal City Fearing Massacre

This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
x
This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
This citizen journalist image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian army soldiers standing in front of dead bodies at Bayda village.
Edward Yeranian
Along Syria's Mediterranean coast, hundreds of residents have left their homes, seeking safety elsewhere after overnight raids by pro-government forces, fearing for their lives after this week's reports of atrocities and mass killings in a nearby Sunni Muslim village.

Accounts of an apparent bloodbath in the village of Bayda over the past three days triggered widespread fear that the ancient coastal town of Banias might be the next target in campaign of violence aimed against Sunni Muslim residents. Witnesses report hundreds if not thousands of Sunnis have fled their homes in Banias and the surrounding area.

Rami Abdel Rahman heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based outside Syria that gathers accounts from a network of sources inside the war-torn country. He estimates that 4,000 Sunnis fled from Banias early Saturday. The situation is grim, he told VOA, and the refugee exodus is growing.

Abdel Rahman says security forces that support the Damascus government are responsible.

The human-rights monitor says Alawite Syrian security forces and groups known as national defense forces, made up of Alawites, stormed a Sunni district in Banias Friday. Witnesses' accounts tell of many casualties. Abdel Rahman says dozens of Sunnis were killed - their throats slit, or burned to death in their homes, shot or gravely wounded by shrapnel.

One amateur video said to be sent from Banias shows much of the violence. The Syrian Observatory chief says this could be just the tip of the iceberg - that there may be many more victims whose deaths have not yet been counted - and accuses the Syrian government of “ethnic cleansing” policies against Sunnis in that area.

Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University says the apparent push by the Alawite security forces to force Sunnis out of Banias is part of an increasingly sectarian conflict in Syria. The veteran observer says this could lead to partition of the country. "I think Banias is about one story: it's about ethnic cleansing on the coast. This is a very key city and and, of course, it's one of these very deadly towns, because the population is completely mixed," he said.

Ajami says some argue that Alawites make up a majority in Banias, while others argue that Sunnis are more numerous, but that it “doesn't really matter, since the countryside beyond Banias is Alawi.” And he says the Alawites now appear to be “clearing the coast, to make sure there's no substantial Sunni presence left.”

According to Ajami, Syria's Assad regime has a strong economic motive for gaining absolute control over the region around Banias, because of its large oil refinery.

“[Banias] has a very big refinery, and one of the complaints of the Sunni population of Banias was that very few if any Sunnis were employed in that refinery. So, even though the oil wells in the north east are not in the hands of the regime, the regime would be loath to give up Banias and its refineries, because this is still part of the Alawi patrimony, in many ways," he said.

Heavy fighting and shelling was also reported in and around the mostly Sunni town of Quseir, near Lebanon's northern border with Syria. Anti-government activists told al Arabiya TV that thousands of shells hit the city, and that the population is “under siege.”

If partition along sectarian lines does take place in Syria, Fouad Ajami notes that the Alawite regime now led by President Bashar al-Assad would need to control Quseir and the nearby city of Homs, in order to “link up with the Shi'ite areas of Lebanon” now held by Hezbollah.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Samuel
May 05, 2013 1:18 PM
The International Criminal Court in the Hague has been remarkably silent on the atrocities in Syria with no action. Perhaps the UN will find a way to initiate judicial action for the Hague on Syria.

by: Anonymous
May 04, 2013 1:27 PM
It is disgusting that the tyrant leader Bashar al Assad has not been disabled by the international community. He should be facing justice for the thousands of innocent civilians he has killed. The people of Syria deserve their country untarnished by Bashar, they deserve Bashar to be served justice for his atrocities. What Bashar has done is destroyed 70% of the cities, towns and villages across Syria, and killed tens of thousands of people. I will be happy the day the Syrians hang Bashar publicly in Damascus. Noone on earth deserves a tyrant leader like Bashsar al Assad. I don't think Bashar even deserves a court case because he has killed so many.

by: Michael from: USA
May 04, 2013 9:47 AM
The Islamist groups must be aware of what is happening, but it does seem like they do not look very far into the future as regards the effects of their activity. It would be helpful if the public knew more about the current situation inside Syria. What needs to be clarified is how long the horror could last in regards to the government's total amount of weapon supply and where exactly the supply-lines run north to south

by: Lillian Pearl Fitzpatrick from: Bureau county
May 04, 2013 9:46 AM
Let s move the 55 defected syrian generals of Payadin to the prison of Montana

by: Haron from: Afghanistan
May 04, 2013 8:40 AM
so far as we watch in Middle East's spring. the Islamist group are winner of these springs. thus day by day the big challenges are creating for Israel. like Egypt and Libya. if Syria government couldn't win this war. I'm sure Israel won't be a peaceful country after 2 years. I'm a Sunni but against of their terrorist activities. I wish and hope for Syria government to come-out perfectly from this problem.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 04, 2013 1:28 PM
There is no chance in hell Syrian Government is going to come out perfectly, too funny. You don't kill thousands of people and expect to just wash your hands, you become "Liable".

Hang him.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs