Assad forces and militia 'kill 220 Syrians in worst atrocity'

Reports of massacre as Russia and Britain offer rival action plans to UN Security Council


A massacre that could be the deadliest yet witnessed in Syria's 16 months of violent unrest was reported by activists last night, with claims that as many as 220 people had been killed in a village near Hama during a combined assault by the army and militia.

A sustained attack by soldiers and artillery was followed by gangs of pro-regime Shabbiha storming Tremseh, according to the Hama Revolutionary Council, which said the victims "died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions". The reports were yet to be verified on the ground, with the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying last night that it had only managed to confirm 30 deaths so far, but local opposition figures told of horrifying scenes with civilians being executed with shots to the head.

One activist, Fadi Sameh, told Reuters: "Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling." Ahmed, from the Union of Hama Revolutionaries, added: "There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses."

The reports come at a sensitive time diplomatically, as the UK has just circulated a draft resolution at the UN Security Council which would open the door for military intervention.

Russia and the UK are set for a stand-off at the Security Council after circulating rival plans for a resolution. The Western-backed British draft threatens increased sanctions against the Syrian regime if it does not withdraw heavy weaponry from civilian areas within 10 days. But Russia, which circulated a much weaker draft resolution, said it would veto the British draft.

Evidence also emerged yesterday that President Bashar al-Assad may be using cluster bombs against his own people. Videos posted online show what experts believe to be cluster munitions, which can kill and maim indiscriminately and can remain lethal for decades after a conflict.

Syria is not among 111 countries to have signed a convention banning cluster bombs and is known to have a stockpile. Deployed from the air or ground, the bombs scatter dozens of bomblets over an area the size of several football fields. They also have a high fail rate, meaning many remain unexploded, becoming mines; 98 per cent of cluster bomb casualties are civilians.

Second official quits regime

As the international community seeks to bring an end to the violence, the highest-ranking Syrian diplomat to defect to the opposition said yesterday that nothing short of President Bashar al-Assad's overthrow was acceptable.

Nawaf Fares, Syria's former ambassador to Iraq, told Al-Jazeera that only force could remove Mr Assad. The former envoy, who defected on Wednesday, was the second senior official to quit in a week.

The other, Brigadier-General Manaf Tlass, has not spoken publicly since he defected. AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent