Syrian opposition activists are reporting that more than 200 residents of the village of Tremseh near Hama were massacred on Thursday in an attack by helicopter gunships, tanks and militiamen who carried out execution-style killings. If confirmed, this would be the worst atrocity in the 16-month uprising.
The BBC’s Jim Muir says that the reports have “yet to be documented by activists with the kind of gruesome images of dead women and children that shocked the world after the killings at Houla two months ago.” Videos posted on the internet have shown about 20 bodies, all of young men, said to have been killed in Tremseh. The United Nations’ monitoring mission in Syria has confirmed the use of heavy weapons including helicopters and tanks in the village and Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that the bodies of 30 people have been identified so far.
The reports of the massacre coincided with the UN discussing whether to renew the observer mission, which has not led to any cessation of violence. Western powers have also been demanding that harsher sanctions be levied against Syria under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which calls for punitive measures “against regimes considered a threat to the peace, including economic sanctions and military intervention.”
Special UN envoy Kofi Annan has said he is “shocked and appalled” at the reports of the massacre and that the Syrian government has violated his six-point peace plan. The Syrian government has blamed the killings on “terrorists,” as it has throughout the months of the uprising.
On Monday, Annan and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are to meet to discuss the crisis. Russia has stood staunchly behind Syria and vetoed earlier United Nations Security Council efforts to pass resolutions with harsher consequences on Syria if the violence continues. According to the New York Times, a Russian cargo ship, the Alaed, that was found to be carrying military helicopters and air-defense equipment to the Syria government and forced to turn back in Scotland earlier this year, is again on the move. The ship is said to be heading south off the northern coast of Norway.
While it is impossible to verify information, over 16,000 people have been killed since popular protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March of 2011.
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Map showing Hama in Syria via Wikimedia Commons