Syrian opposition activists report that more than 200 bodies have been found in the town of Darayya near Damascus. If confirmed, the the killings would require “unequivocal condemnation from the entire international community,” the UK Foreign Office said.
With reports of over 400 killed, the deaths in Darayya would make Saturday the bloodiest yet in the 18-month uprising,
The activist Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said that most of the bodies were those of young men, though some found are reportedly those of children and women. Activists are circulating a graphic video that shows scores of corpses lined up in a dimly lit room in what is described as the Abu Suleiman al-Durani mosque.
Darayya is a working-class Sunni community south-west of Damascus and a population of several hundred thousand; it has reportedly been a “mainstay of opposition support within the capital area” since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March of 2011, says the New York Times. Darayya is near the Meze military airport, a major base for Syrian forces. Activists say that they had established a “large armory” inside the city that, it was rumored, included helicopters.
Syrian forces have been shelling Darayya since midweek and sending hundreds of soliders followed by tanks and military trucks. While the Free Syrian Army initially put up resistance, regime forces were in control of Darayya by late Friday or early Saturday. Electricity and internet lines were cut and soldiers reportedly went house to house to conduct searches.
Local activists say that mass killings like those reportedly carried out in Darayya have increased in recent months, says the BBC. Human Rights Watch says that while such are “not a new pattern… [they are] now happening in more areas and in greater numbers.”
In May, 108 people, including over 30 children, were found massacred in the Syrian village of Houla. Earlier in August, the United Nations issued a report that said it has been “state policy” to conduct indiscriminate attacks against civilians and other atrocities and that members of the “Shabiha” militia have been thoroughy involved in a “gross violation of international human rights.”
Amnesty International has also issued a new report on the fighting in Aleppo, Syria’s second city, according to which “the overwhelming majority of victims were killed in air strikes and artillery attacks by government forces.” Rebel forces were also criticized for “imprecise or indiscriminate weapons such as mortars and home-made rockets.”
A full-fledged investigation of atrocities can only be carried out in the International Criminal Court in the Hague with the approval of the UN Security Council, the Guardian says. But such an inquiry is unlikely because Russia, Syria’s main ally and supplied of arms, has steadfastly blocked this.
The Guardian also says that, as the conflict drags on and the death toll mounts, Western diplomats have indeed “largely given up on security council diplomacy and are stepping up their assistance to the fragmented opposition,” though without arming the rebel forces as countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar reportedly are.
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