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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs