Syria denies UN claims of government forces massacre

 

Syria has denied UN claims that government forces used heavy weapons during a military operation that has brought widespread international condemnation against president Bashar Assad's regime. 

Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said the violence on Thursday was not a massacre, but a military operation targeting armed fighters who had taken control of the village of Tremseh.

"What happened wasn't an attack on civilians," Mr Makdissi told reporters in Damascus. "What has been said about the use of heavy weapons is baseless."

But the United Nations has already implicated Assad's forces in the assault. The head of the UN observer mission said on Friday that monitors stationed near Tremseh saw the army using heavy weaponry and attack helicopters.

Yesterday, UN observers investigating the killings found pools of blood in homes and spent bullets, mortars and artillery shells, adding details to the emerging picture of what anti-regime activists have called one of the deadliest events of Syria's uprising. The observers were expected to return to Tremseh today.

Dozens of people have already been buried in a mass grave, and activists are still struggling to determine the total number of people killed in what they say was a bombardment by government tanks and helicopters on Thursday.

Some of the emerging details suggested that, rather than the outright shelling of civilians that the opposition has depicted, the violence in Tremseh may have been a lopsided fight between the army pursuing the opposition and activists and locals trying to defend the village.

Nearly all of the dead are men, including dozens of armed rebels. The UN observers said the assault appeared to target specific homes of army defectors or opposition figures.

Running tolls ranged from around 100 to 152, including dozens of bodies buried in neighbouring villages or burned beyond recognition. The activists expected the number to rise since hundreds of residents remain unaccounted for, and locals believe bodies remained in nearby fields or were dumped into the Orontes River.

Independent verification of the events is nearly impossible in Syria, one of the Middle East's strictest police states, which bars most media from working in the country. The observers are in the country as part of an all but mordant peace plan by UN special envoy Kofi Annan, who has been trying for months to negotiate a solution to Syria's crisis.

The Tremseh violence was the latest in a string of bloody attacks in the now 16-month-old uprising against Assad, in which activists say more than 17,000 people have been killed.

The new deaths brought intensified international condemnation of his regime, and the Turkish prime minister added his voice to the chorus yesterday.

"These vicious massacres, these attempts at genocide, these inhuman savageries are nothing but the footsteps of a regime that is on its way out," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. "Sooner or later, these tyrants with blood on their hands will go and the people of Syria will in the end make them pay."

Yesterday, an 11-vehicle team of UN observers entered Tremseh, home to between 6,000 and 10,000 residents and one of a string of small farming villages along the Orontes River north-west of the city of Hama.

Based on its investigation, the team said in a statement that "an attack" took place on July 12. It said the violence seemed to target the homes of army defectors and activists, some of which were burned or damaged and had pooled or splattered blood and bullet casings inside.

AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
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

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines