The PJ Tatler

Doubt Cast on Syrian 'Massacre' in Tremseh Story

Not that we should believe the Syrian government when they state that the battle in Tremseh was against “terrorists” and that no civilians were killed.

But the usually reliable opposition sources who carefully document the atrocities committed by the Assad regime have yet to post many videos that show the kind of mass killing that occurred in Houla last May. And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based in London, has been very cautious in their casualty count, saying in a statement, that “several dozen rebel fighters were among those killed,” adding that only around 40 of the dead had been identified, while 30 were burned and 18 were “summarily executed.” The group only publishes casualty counts based on actual names of the dead.

The Free Syrian Army admits they were in Tremseh, but claim they left before the Syrian army stormed the town. Residents claim that once the Syrian army left, the dreaded Shabbiha militia from a nearby town entered Tremseh and rampaged through the village murdering dozens.

A UN Observer team is now in Tremseh trying to sort out what happened.

Accounts from opposition activists cited a death toll in Tremseh ranging from over 100 to more than twice that – one of the bloodiest incidents in the 17-month uprising against Assad that Western powers say has left 17,000 dead.

“We were surrounded from four sides … with tanks and armored vehicles, and the helicopters were hovering above,” said an unidentified man on video footage purportedly filmed in Tremseh and posted on the Internet on Saturday.

“They burned people in front of our eyes, they held the men like this and stabbed them,” he said, pointing to his chest and then to an artery in his throat. He said his cousin’s throat was slit. “They took out people’s eyes.”

One group said rebel fighters rushed to reinforce the village after it came under attack by infantry, artillery and aircraft, leading to a battle that lasted seven hours.

In a pattern seen elsewhere in recent months, rebels accused local irregular militiamen known as shabbiha, from Assad’s Alawite minority, of swooping on the battered village, home mostly to Sunni Muslims, and of killing their neighbors in a sectarian attack some called ethnic cleansing.

A Tremseh activist named Ahmed told Reuters there were 60 bodies at the mosque, of whom 20 were identified: “There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses.”

One piece of film to appear on the Internet showed the corpses of 15 young men with faces or shirts drenched in blood. Most wore T-shirts and jeans. There were no women or children.

Other videos showed rows of bodies wrapped in blankets, sheets and makeshift shrouds, some leaking blood. One man pulled aside a blanket to display a burnt corpse. Men placed wrapped bodies in a breeze-block trench for burial.

Even if 200 or more civilians weren’t massacred in cold blood, there are dead bodies in Tremseh — the result of a cruel bombardment by artillery and helicopter gun ships on civilian houses and apartment dwellings.

Another war crime to add to the considerable charges already building against President Assad and his henchmen.