Syria: 60 Shia Muslims massacred in rebel ‘cleansing’ of Hatla

Opposition activists claim attack on Hatla was incited by President Assad’s decision to arm villagers

Beirut

Up to sixty Shia Muslims have been killed in an attack by opposition fighters in the eastern Syrian town of Hatla. A video posted online on Tuesday, entitled “The storming and cleansing of Hatla”, showed fighters waving the black Salafi flag and celebrating.

“We have raised the banner ‘There is no God but God’ above the houses of the apostate rejectionists, the Shia,” the voice of the cameraman says.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that thousands of rebels participated in the killings, although the footage of the attacks pictured just a handful of fighters. The death toll could not be independently verified.

Activists denied that the killings were sectarian in nature, claiming instead that they were a response to an attack on a Free Syrian Army checkpoint by 30 armed villagers from Hatla. The activists claim the opposition fighters were incited by the Assad regime’s decision to arm the population of Hatla, one of the only Shia villages in an area that has been firmly under rebel control for more than a year. 

However, the language used in the videos is explicitly sectarian. “This is the Shia, this is the Shia carcass, this is their end,” the cameraman says as a blanket is lifted from one of the victims. That video, posted by a pro-Assad group, indicates those responsible were non-Syrians, possibly from Kuwait.

A Syrian government official spoke of a “massacre against villagers in which older people and children were killed”.

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has recently joined the fighting in support of the Assad regime, called the incident an act of sectarian cleansing that was inspired by Sunni clerics in the region.

In a speech in front of the Lebanese embassy in Kuwait, Salafi Sheikh Shafi al Ajmi, one of the most outspoken supporters of the Syrian opposition, said the attack was retaliation for the recent fighting in Qusayr. The town on the Lebanese border was recaptured from rebel control by the Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters last week. He said Syria would be “a burying ground” for Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, a Syrian government helicopter fired three missiles into the Lebanese border village of Arsal, injuring one. The rockets hit the centre of the predominantly Sunni town, which supports the uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, himself a Shia.

Arsal lies just 15km across the border from Syria and is currently home to more than 20,000 refugees, many of them from Qusayr.  Although the helicopter strike is the first attack on an urban centre inside Lebanon by Syrian forces, the Lebanese border area has been facing assault from opposition fighters for months.

Six rockets also hit the town of Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold, on Tuesday, wounding four people and killing one. Blaming the attacks on the rebel presence in Arsal, militants from Hermel killed Ali Ahmed Hujeiri, an Arsal resident, in what appears to have been an ambush.

Reporters at the scene said relatives claimed the man had been shot in the stomach, but the perpetrators had scattered shrapnel on the road to make it look like a shell strike. As the body had already been buried, the reports could not be corroborated.

The Hujeiris are the most influential family in Arsal; the victim’s brother is the mayor while another brother, prominent Salafi sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri, called for his supporters to engage in jihad and avenge his brother’s death. The attacks are the latest in a conflict that has killed more than 80,000 people, according to the United Nations.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
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

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

History Teacher

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?