Syria 'massacre' dead mostly rebels: activist
Most of the people killed in the Syrian village of Traimseh were rebel fighters, an opposition activist said on Friday, adding the bloodbath followed a Free Syrian Army attack on an army convoy.
"At this stage, though we do not yet have the final count, the number of civilians killed by shelling is not more than seven," Jaafar, an activist at the anti-regime Sham News Network, told AFP. "The rest were members of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army."
"An army convoy was on its way to the region of Hama when it was attacked by the FSA," he said. "The army staged a counter-attack with the support of (pro-regime) reinforcements from (nearby) Alawi villages. The FSA resisted for an hour before it was defeated."
Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that "dozens of rebel fighters" were among those killed.
"Several dozen rebel fighters were among those killed," said the Observatory, adding that only around 40 of the more than 150 dead had been identified.
The account appears to conflict with earlier opposition claims that pro-regime militiamen had entered the village and slaughtered civilians, with claims of death tolls as high as 220.
The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama told Reuters that Traimseh was subjected to a barrage of heavy weapons fire before pro-government militiamen swept in and killed victims one by one.
"More than 220 people fell today in Traimseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions," the regional opposition group said in a statement on Thursday evening.
The opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) also had a death toll of 220, while Syria's official news agency, SANA, said at least 50 civilians had been killed by "terrorists."
The SANA report said rebels went on a rampage and "exploded houses" before the Syrian army intervened, inflicting "huge losses" upon the rebels and forcing them to flee.
SANA also said the army had confiscated "Israeli-made machine guns," while Syrian state television said three security personnel had been killed in the fighting.
Neither account could be independently verified due to tight media restrictions in Syria, and the deteriorating security situation for journalists.
International mediator Kofi Annan said he was "appalled" by the killings, as fighting continues to undermine UN peace efforts to resolve the crisis.
Annan appeared to blame the government, saying the use of heavy weaponry against the town was a violation of the peace plan he brokered earlier this year.
"I am shocked and appalled by news coming out of the village of Traimseh, near Hama, of intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters," Annan said.
"This is in violation of the government's undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and its commitment to the six-point plan," he added.
Annan, in a letter to the UN Security Council, urged the body to send a message that there would be consequences for non-compliance.
"This is imperative and could not be more urgent in light of unfolding events," his letter said
The head of the stalled UN observer mission in the country said his representatives were ready to visit the town if a ceasefire could be guaranteed.
"UNSMIS stands ready to go in and seek verification of facts if and when there is a credible ceasefire," Major General Robert Mood, the head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, told a news conference in Damascus.
Syria has so far witnessed two mass killings since the crisis began in March 2011.
Seventy-eight people were shot or stabbed dead or burned alive in the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir on June 6, and 108 men, women, and children were massacred in the town of Houla on May 25. The regime and opposition traded blame over both massacres.
The killings come as a flurry of international diplomacy continues over the crisis, with Annan set to arrive in Moscow on Monday, a Russian foreign ministry source said.
"The current state of affairs in Syria and prospects for a (peace) settlement will be discussed," RIA news agency quoted the source as saying, adding that Annan would meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Annan's visit comes before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lands in Russia later in the week to sort out sharp differences with Moscow on the Syrian crisis.
Russia warned Western powers on Thursday it would block any renewed attempt to pass through a UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action or imposing sanctions.
Turkey is one of the principal supporters of Syrian rebels, hosting armed groups in its territory, as well as the hardline Muslim Brotherhood.
(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)
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