Regime accuses Syrian rebels of massacre
Published Friday, June 22, 2012
The Syrian government accused rebels of carrying out a "brutal massacre" of 25 of its supporters on Friday in a flashpoint northwestern district that has been the scene of fierce clashes.
"Armed terrorist groups... kidnapped a number of citizens in Daret Azzeh area in the countryside of Aleppo, according to official sources in the province," the state SANA news agency said.
"The terrorist groups... committed a brutal massacre against the citizens...through shooting them dead and then mutilating their bodies." it added.
SANA added that the fate of the remaining people who had been kidnapped was "still unknown."
But the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been monitoring the crisis since it began in March 2011, said at least 26 died, and were most likely fighters of a pro-regime militia.
An unconfirmed video posted on YouTube and distributed by the Observatory showed piles of mangled bodies of young men, their clothing soaked in blood.
At least two of the bodies in the footage were wearing fatigues.
"These are Shabbiha of Bashar Assad's regime," the narrator said, without identifying himself.
Elsewhere, in Aleppo – Syria's commercial hub which had long been spared the violence triggered by the uprising which broke out in March last year – troops opened fire on demonstrators killing four, the Observatory said.
Security forces also resorted to live rounds in a bid to disperse a protest in the upscale Mazzeh district of Damascus, the watchdog added.
It is difficult to verify accounts of violence in Syria due to tight media restrictions and a deteriorating security situation for journalists.
Humanitarian situation worsening
The United Nations released a new report on the humanitarian situation in Syria, saying 1.5 million Syrians were now in need of aid, up 500,000 in less than three months.
"The humanitarian situation in Syria continues to deteriorate," the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.
"It is now estimated that up to 1.5 million people need humanitarian assistance."
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which made two attempts to enter Homs on Thursday alongside the Syrian Red Crescent, said any new relief effort would depend on better security.
"We cannot know when our team will return to Homs, after they returned to Damascus yesterday following two failed attempts to evacuate civilians from the city," ICRC spokesperson Rabab al-Rifai said.
"We will discuss the next steps internally, and in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, before we take any decision regarding our return there."
Russia: troop withdrawal possible
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that he had urged Syria's government to "do a lot more" to implement a UN-backed peace plan, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.
After talks with Syria's foreign minister, Lavrov told a Russian television station the Syrian government was prepared to withdraw forces from cities and towns simultaneously with rebels and suggested Moscow would seek support for such an agreement among other nations.
"We called on them to back their statement of readiness to carry out Kofi Annan's plan with action," Lavrov said of his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem
"They have already done a lot but they could and must do a lot more," Lavrov told state-run Rossiya-24 television.
Lavrov added that he hoped an international meeting on Syria which could be held soon would produce an agreement "under which government forces and the armed opposition must withdraw simultaneously from cities and towns under the control of international observers. The minister told me that today."
"Now we need to make it so that the other side is also ready for this," Lavrov said.