Assad regime carried out seven massacres – UN
The Assad regime was accused by the United Nations yesterday of perpetrating the worst massacre of the Syrian civil war before August's chemical weapons attack – the slaughter of hundreds of civilian men, women and children in and around the town of Baniyas in May.
In a detailed summary of human rights abuses in the war in just the three months from April to June this year, a UN commission of inquiry into Syria states that it has "confirmed to its evidentiary standards" that the regime was responsible for the Baniyas slaughter and six other large-scale massacres – with rebels responsible for one.
According to estimates cited by its report, between 300 and 450 people were killed when the Syrian army and locally recruited militias stormed into two districts of Baniyas, near the north-west coast, on May 2 and 3.
Photographs posted online but considered by most media too gruesome to publish showed the corpses of scores of women and children, some still bleeding from fresh wounds.
"Testimonies of those who witnessed the aftermath described bodies lying in the streets for days before the inhabitants could safely return to collect them," the report says of the scene in the second district.
"Some of the bodies appeared to have been hit with heavy or sharp objects, especially in the face and head area."
The report makes gruesome reading. It will confirm both the fears of those who believe military intervention by America and its allies will embroil them in a bloodbath from which escape would be difficult, and the determination of those who believe that some way must be found of putting a stop to the conflict.
"The Syrian Arab Republic is a battlefield," it says.
"Its cities and towns suffer relentless shelling and sieges. Massacres are perpetrated with impunity.
"An untold number of Syrians have disappeared." (© Daily Telegraph, London)