Thursday 19 October 2017

UN teams reach site of Syria's worst war atrocity

A Syrian woman mourns over the body of a relative in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the central city of Hama. The Red Cross statement came as the United Nations tried to determine what happened in a village where dozens were reported killed in a regime assault.
A Syrian woman mourns over the body of a relative in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the central city of Hama. The Red Cross statement came as the United Nations tried to determine what happened in a village where dozens were reported killed in a regime assault.

Martin Chulov in Beirut

Regime blamed for massacre of 150

Residents of the battered Syrian town of Tremseh have described being chased from their homes and hunted down by regime forces after seven hours of shelling, during a major assault that left up to 150 dead last Thursday.

The first UN observers to reach the devastated town yesterday described widespread scenes of destruction and many residents appeared too traumatised to talk. The massacre in the small farming community of 6,000 people, north-west of Hama, is being described as the worst single atrocity of the Syrian uprising.

The UN 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.

The team found evidence of artillery shells and mortars, which only government troops have, as well as assault rifles, the staple of Syria's rebels.

Two eyewitnesses from Tremseh who spoke yesterday, blamed regime forces and the pro-regime militia -- the Shabiha -- for the attack, which has seen many residents flee with hundreds still missing. "We don't understand why they attacked us," said a local woman, Umm Khaled.

"We haven't brought harm to the region. All we've done here is hold demonstrations."

Ms Khaled, who lived in Tremseh -- a Sunni Muslim enclave -- said people trying to flee through fields were shot dead as they ran. She claims some of the bodies were taken away by regime forces and that others were handcuffed, then summarily executed.

Syria's state news agency yesterday blamed the massacre on a "terrorist gang" which it claimed included foreign Arab fighters.

The two Tremseh residents strongly denied that their town either supported, or had been subverted by, terrorists. "I swear we don't have any terrorists, Salafists, or anyone from the outside here," said Ms Khaled. "People have been terrified ever since regime forces came to the village in January and killed 40 of us. This time they stole from our homes, they robbed jewellery from women. All of this because we support the revolution?"

A second resident, who wanted to be known only as Mohammed, said: "The bombardment started at 5.30am and ended at 2pm. The Shabiha and regime military men entered the village, occupied the roofs of high buildings and shot at anything moving.

"They shot many civilians in the head and then burnt the bodies. They hand-cuffed civilians and then shot them in the head. They burnt shops and houses with families inside. The criminals took many martyrs' bodies and wounded civilians with them and there are many missing."

Elsewhere in the country clashes persisted yesterday, with the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights claiming Syrian forces had killed another 52 civilians.

© Observer

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