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
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
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: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot