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Hundreds killed in Syrian village massacre

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Published on Jul 13, 2012

http://timesofearth.com/Worldnews/?NT... BEIRUT — U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria Kofi and the Syrian opposition denounced President Bashar Assad after a massive military assault against a village involving tanks, artillery and helicopters a day earlier caused the deaths of possibly hundreds of civilians.

Annan has said he is "shocked and appalled" at reports of mass killings in the Syrian village of Tremseh.

Annan on Friday blamed government forces and armed militiamen backed by tanks and helicopters for slaughtering about 220 people in the Sunni farming village of Tremseh, in rebellious Hama province.
Condemning what he called "atrocities" and voicing shock at the "intense fighting, significant casualties and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry," Annan said the Syrian government had violated its commitments to the peace plan he brokered in April.

Rebel backers claim the attack on Thursday was the worst single act of violence since the country's revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood also blamed Assad for the reported massacre and what it called Syria's foreign backers, including Russia, Iran and Annan. Protests broke out in multiple cities across Syria Friday, with demonstrators condemning the killings in Tremseh.

Syrian state media blamed the massacre on dozens of terrorists who overran Tremseh, killing and wounding dozens of civilians. It said the attackers "ransacked, destroyed and burned scores of houses" before "competent authorities" arrived.

If the death toll in Tremseh is confirmed, it would be the bloodiest single event in the Syrian conflict.

The US, France and UK all condemned the violence and called for co-ordinated action from the UN Security Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that credible reports provided indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians.

The White House said further "atrocities" in Syria by Assad's government should end any doubts on the need for a coordinated international response at the United Nations.

The Syrian National Council, the country's main exiled opposition group, called on the Security Council to "assume total responsibility to protect defenseless Syrians against these shameful crimes."

At a news conference in Istanbul, opposition leader Abdel Basset Syeda said responsibility for the massacre goes to the Syrian government's ally Russia, which he says has become "part of the conflict." Friendly nations, Syeda said, must "move from words to action" and "show real friendship."

Syeda said the Syrian opposition is sending a delegation to the U.N. to press for quick action.

Another activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said it has confirmed the names of 63 people killed in the attack on Thursday, and expects the final toll to be far higher.

The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama said Tremseh was first shelled, then invaded by pro-government militiamen of Assad's Alawite sect, who swept in and killed victims one by one. It said some civilians were killed while trying to flee.

Multiple reports quoting activists and witnesses said a convoy of vehicles from nearby Alawite villages surrounded Tremseh early Thursday. Militiamen then blockaded the settlement and began randomly firing on houses as a helicopter flew overhead. Electricity and telephone lines were cut. Bodies were later recovered from fields, private homes and the nearby Orontes River.

The previous largest massacre in Syria took place in nearby Houla, when 108 men, women and children were killed on May 25 -- the vast majority of them executed, according to a United Nations report. In June, it took U.N. monitors two days to reach the site of an alleged massacre of 78 people shot, stabbed or burned alive in the Sunni hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir by pro-government shabiha militiamen.

Meanwhile, the United States says the international community will hold Syrian officials accountable if they fail to meet their duty to safeguard the country's stockpiles of chemical weapons.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. has repeatedly warned Syria it is obligated to protect those weapons.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal on Thursday quoted intelligence reports as suggesting that Syria was moving its chemical weapons, amid fears the government could use them against rebels or civilians.

Syria is believed to have reserves of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide.

Reports of casualties often cannot be independently verified, as Syria severely restricts journalists' freedom of movement.

Some 16,000 people are thought to have been killed since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime began in March 2011.

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