Warning: Graphic images from Tremseh
Warning: Graphic images from Tremseh
The Syrian government’s armed forces and paramilitary shabiha Thursday slaughtered some 220 men, women and children in Tremseh, a small Sunni village in Syria’s central province of Hama.
It is not only the third copycat massacre in seven weeks, but also the bloodiest in the Syria conflict.
The first massacre was in Houla, north of Homs, on May 25, when over 100 villagers, including dozens of women and children, were either shot or stabbed to death.
The second was on June 6 in Qubair, twelve miles from Hama, Syria’s fifth largest city, where at least 78 civilians were massacred, 40 of them women and children.
Yesterday’s was in Tremseh, again near Hama, where Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, killed some 30,000 civilians in the February 1982 Hama Massacre.
Tremseh was attacked with helicopter gunships and tanks before the shabiha militia went in on foot and carried out the execution-style killings with knives and AK-47s. They then torched some of the houses and bodies.
Activists say many of the victims were displaced people from the neighboring village of Khneizra.
They say bodies are stacked in Tremseh’s mosque and many others are either buried under the rubble or scattered in the farming fields.
Activists say government forces surrounded the village on Thursday morning and heavily bombarded it for several hours, killing many people.
Shabiha militias from nearby Alawite villages then moved in, they said, killing many more villagers and setting fire to houses. Others who tried to flee through fields were also gunned down, the activists said.
One activist, named Ahmed, told Reuters: "So far, we have 20 victims recorded with names and 60 bodies at a mosque. There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses... People were trying to flee from the time the shelling started and whole families were killed trying to escape."
Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Free Syria Army’s Military Council, said there were no FSA fighters in Tremseh, “which was attacked because it supports the revolution.”
The commander of the FSA, Col. Riad al-Asaad, confirmed this and urged Syrians, whether military or civilian, to mobilize, cutoff roads and attack military airports.
The opposition umbrella Syrian National Council (SNC) said in a statement the gruesome massacre in Tremseh “ranks among the Syrian regime’s most infamous genocides.”
Separately, the SNC’s Human Rights Bureau put the number of Syrians killed on Thursday at “more than 343, among them many women and children… most of whom were victims of a massacre in Tremseh.”
UN and Arab League envoy for Syria Kofi Annan says he is “shocked and appalled” at reports of mass killings in Tremseh.
“Mothballed” in Hama since June 16, some of his UN observers are now reportedly trying to reach Tremseh “to investigate” the killings.
Wafik al-Samarraie, writing for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, warns today, “Do not underestimate the genocide campaigns’ danger to the revolution.”
“Without wanting to cause a major letdown,” he opines, “the facts show the regime still has the upper hand on the ground as well as the ability to mount extermination campaigns that pause a serious threat to the revolution.
“While weapons and hardware continue to flow abundantly into the regular army’s depots, military supplies liable to help insurgents protect civilians remain wanting.
“Until this writing, not one shoulder-launched missile has been fired at warplanes or gunships targeting civilians. Pictures showing FSA fighters carrying man-portable anti-tank weapons are extremely rare although civilians are constantly bombarded by tank formations.
“We’ve heard a lot from the regime and its backers about the ‘flood of military gear reaching the insurgents’, but there is no sign of this anywhere. The few cars we see on video clips are antiquated and unfit for the battlefield. Personal weapons the insurgents are carrying date back to the 1950s. You can also tell from the video clips the insurgents hardly have anything resembling military dress or boots. All this proves the Syria arms embargo is clamped on one side only…”
It is noteworthy, Samarraie concludes, that the regime has in recent weeks resorted to salami slicing tactics, whereby it would isolate chunks of restive areas and then blitz each one in turn. The process pauses a significant threat to the arms-starved revolution. “If this persists, the outcome is fraught with uncertainty.”