WASHINGTON - Dozens of civilians were found dead in the streets of Al-Qaryatayn town after IS withdrew from the town on Saturday, after 22 days of fighting with the Syrian regime.
Britain-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said on its official webpage that at least 128 civilians were assassinated mainly by Islamic State — 83 were killed in the last 48 hours of IS taking control of the town.
The Observatory added that 12 civilians were killed by the Syrian regime forces.
"Two hundred ISIS militants fled to the Syrian Desert after beheading and shooting dozens of civilians accused of conniving with the regime," the Observatory said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
18,000 civilians remain in Al-Qaryatayn
Abdullah Abdul Karim, an activist from Al-Qaryatayn, told VOA that 18,000 civilians have remained in the city while humanitarian aid is scarce.
"Only 75 bodies were identified, the rest of the bodies were decomposed in the streets and in water wells. IS used to leave those killed in the streets to rot in order to terrorize the people," Abdul Karim said.
Al-Qaryatayn is a strategic town on the road connecting the historical city of Palmyra to the Qalamoun region located northeast of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The town lies about 300 kilometers (186 miles) west of Deir al-Zour city, where pro-Syrian government forces backed by Russian jets and allied militias are focusing their military offensive.
Pro-Syrian government forces took control of Al-Qaryatayn in April during the regime’s effort to regain control over central Syrian governorates Hama and Homs.
An official statement released by the local council of Al-Qaryatayn after IS took over the town in September, called on Humanitarian Organizations and UN entities to work on preventing a possible massacre in Al-Qaryatayn.
"The village is under embargo by [the] Syrian regime after IS seized it on September 29 2017. More than ten thousand civilians, Muslims and Christians, are facing an unknown destiny," the statement said.
Officials used in negotiations
Abdul Karim told VOA that IS kept the district administrator, a number of police officers and Syrian officials alive in Al-Qaryatayn to use them in the negotiations with the regime to guarantee their way out.
"Currently, the Syrian regime is conducting investigation in the town and when the investigation is over, civilians must leave the town because it will be turned into a military site," Abdul Karim said.
"The number of victims might increase as many people are still missing."