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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid