Massacre of over 200 feared in Syrian village of Tremseh

Attack on rebel village by helicopter gunships and tanks followed up by executions, according to activists

LAST UPDATED AT 08:53 ON Fri 13 Jul 2012

A DAY after the surprise defection of Syrian regime hardliner Nawaf al-Fares to the opposition, news has emerged of a massacre of more than 200 civilians in the war-torn province of Hama.

An opposition group claims that the village of Tremseh came under fire yesterday from helicopter gunships and tanks before pro-government Shabiha militiamen attacked and "executed" civilians.

The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama told Reuters: "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh. They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Syrian state television blamed the Tremseh killings on "armed terrorist groups" and said three security personnel had been killed.

An opposition activist from Tremseh, who did not witness the alleged massacre said: "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling.

"Every family in the town seems to have members killed."

Another local activist said: "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."

If confirmed, the Tremseh massacre would be the worst committed so far by the Shiite Alawite regime on the mainly Sunni Muslim opposition. It eclipses the massacre of 108 civilians in Houla two months ago.

Nawaf al-Fares, Syria's ambassador to Iraq, announced this week he was defecting from President Bashar al-Assad's "criminal" regime, urging others to follow him. AFP reports that the defection was a surprise to many opposition activists who saw the former policeman as a regime hardliner. · 

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