Over 100 killed in Syria massacre: watchdog
AFPDAMASCUS--More than 100 civilians have been killed in a new “massacre” in Syria, a watchdog said Thursday, as Russia slammed the United States for blaming deadly blasts at a university campus on the Damascus regime.
January 18, 2013, 12:23 am TWN
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths came when the army on Tuesday swept through farmlands north of Homs, where it said around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting ravaging the city in central Syria.
“The Syrian regime carried out a new massacre on Tuesday claiming 106 victims, including women and children,” said the Britain-based watchdog, which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground.
Witnesses said several members of the same family were among those killed, some in fires that raged through their homes and others stabbed or hacked to death. Among the dead were 32 members of the same clan.
Al-Watan newspaper, a pro-government daily, reported army advances against “gunmen” — the term used by the regime for insurgents — in the area where the killings reportedly took place.
But activists on the ground quoted by the Observatory denied that rebels were present in the area, which is about five kilometres (three miles) from the Homs city centre.
Homs, dubbed “the capital of the revolution” by Syria's opposition, is the largest and most strategic province in the country, lying on key trade routes near the borders with Lebanon and Iraq, and with its southwestern areas not far from Damascus.
Troops and rebels have been battling to gain dominance in the city and the province, with many areas under siege by regime forces for more than six months.
The Observatory urged the UN to send a fact-finding team to probe the latest bloodshed.
The reported deaths were the latest to emerge from Syria, where twin blasts tore on Tuesday through an Aleppo campus while students were writing exams, killing at least 87 people.
No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo blasts but the United States blamed government forces for the violence, suggesting they were caused by air strikes on university buildings.
“The United States is appalled and saddened by the Syrian regime's deadly attack yesterday on the University of Aleppo,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday.