Syrian rebels accused of massacre after seven die in attack on TV station
Building stormed hours after President Assad warns that Syria is now 'in a real state of war'
Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. He was awarded Foreign Commentator of the Year at the 2013 Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards.
Thursday 28 June 2012
The Syrian regime accused opponents of staging a massacre yesterday after insurgents attacked a pro-government television station near Damascus and killed seven employees.
The assault came as United Nations investigators warned that the violence in Syria had "reached or even surpassed" the levels seen before the UN-backed ceasefire agreed in April, as they presented a report into the massacre at Houla last month in which more than 100 civilians were killed.
As rebels intensify attacks on the regime and its supporters, the UN and Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, has called a meeting of permanent members of the UN Security Council. It pointedly excludes Saudi Arabia, which supports the insurgents, and Iran, which backs the government.
The al-Ikhbariya TV station, 15 miles south of Damascus, was stormed by gunmen at about 4am, hours after President Bashar al-Assad said his country was in "a real state of war".
A photographer who visited the remains of the station said five buildings used for offices and studios had collapsed. The newsroom was burned out. The walls of a two-storey building had been sprayed with bullets, there was blood on the floor and wooden partitions were still on fire.
Accurate information about fighting in Syria was already difficult to obtain and is likely to become more so if rebels target journalists and news organisations they regard as hostile.
Al-Ikhbariya is privately-owned but is strongly supportive of the government, as is the rest of the Syrian media. However, many Syrians get their news from satellite television channels highly critical of the state.
An employee at the television station told a news agency that several staff were wounded in the assault on its compound in the town of Drousha.
He was driven 200 yards from station by the rebels before they blew it up. He said: "I was terrified when they blindfolded me and took me away." They released him soon afterwards, but kidnapped the station's guards.
The Information Minister, Omran al-Zoebi, called the killings "a massacre against the freedom of the press".
The UN report on last month's massacre at Houla, near the northern city of Homs, does not name those responsible, saying only that forces loyal to the government "may have been responsible" for many of the deaths.
It does not name the Alawite militia – the Shabiha – as being responsible, as has been widely reported, but said they had easiest access to Houla.
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...