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UN Observer Mission Confirms Military Onslaught On Syrian Village
308 days ago
(RTTNews) - The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) on Saturday confirmed opposition claims that government forces had attacked the village of Tremseh two days ago using artillery, mortars and small arms, following a visit to the targeted village.
UNSMIS spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said in a statement issued late Saturday that attack on Tremseh "appeared targeted at specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists," noting that a "wide range of weapons were used, including artillery, mortars and small arms" in the onslaught.
"There were pools of blood and blood spatters in rooms of several homes together with bullet cases. On the basis of this preliminary mission, UNSMIS can confirm that an attack, using a variety of weapons, took place," she added.
Ghosheh said the number of casualties is still unclear and added that the UN observers plan to go back into Tremseh, located 15 miles north-west of the city of Hama, on Sunday to continue their fact-finding visit.
"UNSMIS is deeply concerned about the escalating level of violence in Syria and calls on the Government to cease the use of heavy weapons on population centers and on the parties to put down their weapons and choose the path of non-violence for the welfare of the Syrian people who have suffered enough," she added.
Earlier, opposition activists had claimed that at least 200 people were killed in Tremseh, in the central Hama province, in the attack by government forces using tanks and helicopters on Thursday. They said the military onslaught was followed by a raid by pro-government Shabiha militia, who they alleged entered the village on foot and carried out execution-style killings.
Nevertheless, state media denied the involvement of government troops in the incident and blamed it on "terrorist groups." Such claims, made by both sides, cannot be independently verified as most international news agencies are barred from working in the unrest-hit Middle East nation.
Thursday's attack was condemned by UN officials as well as the joint UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, who said the attack violated the Government's commitment to his earlier agreed six-point peace plan aimed at ending the crisis.
Annan's plan calls for an end to violence that has gripped the Arab country, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
Incidentally, the civilian massacre in Tremseh is not the first such case reported in Syria in recent months. On May 25, some 108 people, mostly women and children, were massacred in the village of Houla. The Syrian government blamed Islamist militants for the massacre, but the UN human rights office said later that Syrian security forces were clearly involved in the Houla killings.
Further, many nations, including the US, France, Australia, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Netherlands and Switzerland, expelled Syrian envoys in response to the massacre. Despite these actions, shelling of towns and villages by the Syrian troops have since been reported in Syria.
So far, the international stand on Syria has been divided, with China and Russia rejecting previous efforts by the Western nations and their Arab allies to punish the Syrian regime at the UN over its brutal suppression of dissent.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the anti-Assad protests broke out in March 2011. The opposition, however, claims the actual death toll is closer to 16,000. Notably, the Assad regime continues to blame "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence.
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