Assad opens new front in war on his people

Rebels vow to fight back after soldiers target opposition stronghold on Turkish border

Hacipasa, Turkey

Syrian regime forces came in four pick-up trucks, some in uniform and others in civilian clothing – but all carrying guns. They found the man they sought working on a farm, there was shouting and then they shot him in the head.

"They dragged his body away and threw it into the back of one of the cars. One of the soldiers said they would have to dump it somewhere. They were so casual, it was as if they had just killed a stray dog," said 19-year-old Mohammed Hani. "This was not the first time this had happened, we have seen lots of people killed around here but now it's getting even worse."

This was just one death among many in this area during a violent and vengeful operation by the troops of Bashar al-Assad. Villages along the border between Syria and Turkey have been systematically cleansed in an apparent attempt to destroy supply routes vital for opposition safe havens.

With a death toll of around 80, Idlib province has experienced more people killed in the last 48 hours than Homs, the pre-eminent centre of resistance. That city has been subjected to continuous bombardment, which claimed the lives, among others, of journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. In this region, many of the fatalities have been targeted executions, with the seeming aim of exterminating activists and crushing resistance.

Wassim Sabbagh, who is directing communications for the rebels in the Idlib border area, said: "What we saw in these attacks is the total disregard with which Bashar al-Assad holds the people of Syria. Regime forces have gone into these villages and killed people and destroyed homes just as a punishment for carrying out protests."

The Turkish hamlet of Hacipasa, straddling the frontier, is one of the bases used by the rebels. Bullets regularly stray from fire fights in adjoining fields and hills. Swirls of smoke rose yesterday from mortar rounds which, the revolutionaries claimed, were aimed at a community centre used by protesters in the Syrian village of Asmarin.

Mr Hani, who is Turkish, said: "We have families on both sides of the border and see what is happening. I was working in Libya and got stranded during the revolution. Terrible things happened there and now the same is happening here. We don't know how many were killed in the last two days."

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 32 men, mostly young, were killed at the villages of Idita, Iblin and Bashon. Another dozen died at Darcush when an attack by regime troops began on Tuesday morning following a demonstration. A convoy including five members of the local campaign group who were arrested and being taken to nearby Jar Ash Shaghur was ambushed by revolutionaries.

"We failed to get the men free, but we have to rescue them, they are leaders of the revolution in this area," said Izzedin Hihano, the rebel commander in charge of defending the villages in this stretch of the border. "But, more than that, they will be killed. They will not die quickly, they will be tortured."

Commander Hihano, a former marble craftsman, is the head of the Martyr Hisham Haboub Group, named after a fallen rebel which has about 300 fighters in its ranks. "There are another 700 in this area. But we are very short of ammunition ... that is the main problem."

Yesterday, Commander Hihano went back into Turkey, where he stays in a refugee camp, with the mission of buying ammunition.

The revolutionaries were able to bring their own injured, as well as some civilians, towards the border, thanks to subterfuge of the residents in one village. "Some of the wounded were saved. They pretended to hold a march in honour of Bashar al-Assad. The soldiers were surprised, but they went away to fight the revolutionaries," said Haitham al-Baid, who lives in Iblin.

"That created a passage and they could take wounded people out."

Commander Hihano said: "The fight will continue – we have no choice. But the priority is to get medical help. Assad has declared war on his own population, you have seen that, so it is up to us to protect the welfare of people."

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy