Government forces accused of fresh Syrian massacre

“There was some shelling first, but then it subsided so people did not leave.
They did not expect this horrible attack,” said Mousab al-Hamedee from the
opposition Local Coordination Committee.

Opposition activists from the nearby city of Hama told the Daily Telegraph
that almost the entire population of the collection of houses in the area
may be dead.

“The farms have around 130 people. The last count of identified bodies is
about 37, but our reporters there confirmed 78 martyrs,” said Sammy, and
activist form the opposition Hama news agency.

“I am not certain of numbers, but there are many women and children and old
men dead. They were the ones that could not run away,” said Hamedee.

Following the vein sectarian violence that has ignited across the country,
activists blamed the killings on militiamen belonging to the ruling minority
Alawite sect.

“After 2pm today the regime troops started bombing the area. The Shabiha came
in buses and they started to slaughter al kubeer village entirely. They
grabbed some bodies with them,” said Lieutenant Khaled Ali, a spokesperson
for the rebel Military Council in Hama.

“30 men kidnapped by security forces and were taken to the supporting villages
that are from the Alawite sect. We heard information that the bodies were
being tied to cars and dragged. They are celebrating. We heard this from
many people,” said Sammy.

State TV said troops had discovered some bodies after attacking “terrorists”.

“Tomorrow the regime will blame armed gangs, but we know the people of this
area, we know names and faces, we know it was shabiha” insisted Hamedee.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory called on
U.N. observers to visit the area immediately.

“Do not wait until tomorrow in order to investigate this latest massacre,” he
said.

The main Syrian National Council opposition group on Thursday called for
stepped up military assaults on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the
wake of a massacre in the province of Hama it said left 80 civilians dead
and 30 missing.

In a rare call for direct military action, the council said in a statement
that rebels operating under the Free Syrian Army umbrella should “escalate
battlefield action” to ease pressure on civilians “under siege, shelling and
assaults in the provinces of Hama, Latakia and Homs”.

Meanwhile, American officials launched a fresh campaign to rally international
support for a United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions
against the Assad regime.

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, called for the world to exert
“maximum financial pressure” on Syria and indicated that US diplomats would
seek a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.

Previous attempts to pass Security Council resolutions have failed after they
were vetoed by Russia and China.

Although Russia this week indicated for the first time that it could accept a
peace deal that would see Mr Assad step down, its co-operation in the
Security Council will be hard to secure. Russia fears such a resolution
would be a prelude to enforced regime change.

Heavy fighting was also reported in the Harasta district of Damascus yesterday
as rebels attacked an intelligence building and checkpoints. Similar
operations were mounted in three of the capital’s satellite towns.
Government forces were also said to have suffered heavy casualties during
clashes in Haffe, a town in the loyalist heartland of Latakia province.

Opposition fighters have declared that the ceasefire brokered by Mr Annan has
collapsed. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least
168 government soldiers have been killed in the past week.

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