Last Updated: Fri Jul 13, 2012 13:17 pm (KSA) 10:17 am (GMT)

Syria’s main opposition calls for binding U.N. resolution after massacre

Free Syrian Army members, under the name of Farouq Brigades, raise their fists as they chant “Allahu akbar” during combat training at Sarmada near Idlib. (Reuters)
Free Syrian Army members, under the name of Farouq Brigades, raise their fists as they chant “Allahu akbar” during combat training at Sarmada near Idlib. (Reuters)

Syria’s main opposition alliance on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to pass a binding resolution against Damascus following reports by activists that regime forces massacred at least 150 villagers.

“To stop this bloody madness which threatens the entity of Syria, as well as peace and the security in the region and in the world, requires an urgent and sharp resolution of the Security Council under Chapter VII (of the U.N. Charter) which protects the Syrian people,” the Syrian National Council (SNC) said.

Chapter VII allows for punitive measures against regimes considered a threat to the peace, including economic sanctions and military intervention.

Syrian opposition and activists accused regime of President Bashar al-Assad of committing another massacre on Thursday.

Syrian troops with tanks and helicopters slaughtered more than 150 people in a central village, al-Tremsa, rights activists said Friday, casting a dark shadow over efforts to stop the bloodshed.

However, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) reported a higher death toll and said around 250 people were killed in Tremsa.

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the opposition group, the Syrian Revolution General Commission in Europe told Al Arabiya that both Russia and the U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan are responsible over the latest massacre committed by the Assad’s regime.

Jaara also criticized the Syrian opposition leader and intellectual Michel Kilo for flying to Moscow and meeting with Russians last week. He dismissed Kilo’s statement when he said that Russian arms in Syria were to be used against Israel, instead the arms were used against Syrian citizens.

Like Jaara, Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood blamed Annan and Syrian allies Iran and Russia on Friday over the killing.

“We don’t consider the monster Bashar as being solely responsible for this heinous crime ... but (also) Kofi Annan, the Russians and the Iranians and all countries which pretend to be guardians of peace and stability in the world but who remain silent,” the Brotherhood said in a statement.

An opposition figure, the Berlin-based Haytham al-Malih, from the Syrian National Action renewed his call for a no-fly zone on Syria.

The Syrian government, meanwhile, did not make any official statement, but the country’s state TV said that “terrorists” have committed the massacre and that the Syrian government forces have entered the village only after the residents asked for their help.

Reports of the massacre came after U.N. Security Council ambassadors held their first talks on rival Russian and Western draft resolutions on Syria, with Moscow spurning calls for sanctions against Assad’s regime.

No progress was reported, with a July 20 deadline looming. That is the end date of the mandate for the UN mission to the conflict-stricken country, where activists say more than 17,000 people have died since March 2011.

Massacre like Houla?

On Thursday, Syrian government troops massacred more than 150 people in Tremsa village, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while a rebel leader put the toll at more than 200.

If confirmed, the killing at Tremsa in the central province of Hama would rival the massacre at Houla on May 25, when a pro-Assad militia and government forces were accused of killing at least 108 people.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by telephone that the bodies of 30 villagers had already been identified following the sustained attack, which brought the day's total death toll in the conflict-torn nation to well over 200.

“Some are estimating higher numbers, but even at around 150, especially considering how small the town is, this might be the biggest massacre committed in Syria since the start of the revolution,” he said.

“The army must have got the green light to commit a massacre of this scale, and I bear President Bashar al-Assad responsible for the killing.”

Rebel leader Abu Mohamad, chief of a group based further to the north, said that the attack using helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket-launchers had killed more than 200 people in the village.

Abu Mohamad said he had been in phone contact with a resident of Tremsa who told him that government forces were on hills a few kilometers (miles) outside the town.

The army and the Shabiha, pro-regime militia who are said to accompany troops to make sure they do not desert, started to bombard Tremsa Thursday around 11:00 am (0800 GMT) and finished around 9:00 pm, according to Abu Mohamad.

But a Hama-based activist who identified himself as Abu Ghazi said via Skype that regime troops started shelling the village earlier, at around 6:00 am.

“That was followed by clashes with the (rebel) Free Syrian Army, but the FSA does not have a big presence in Tremsa and could not fight long,” said the activist.

“The number of martyrs is very high partly because the army shelled a mosque where scores of people had taken shelter, to treat the wounded and hide from the bomb.”

The village, which had a population of 7,000, he said, “is empty now. Everyone is dead or has run away.”

“Almost 30 army vehicles arrived, and surrounded the village completely. There wasn’t a single way out,” said Ibrahim, another activist from Treimsa. “Anyone who tried to escape through the fields was shot.”

Pro-regime militiamen from neighboring Alawite villages entered Tremsa after the army raided it, Ibrahim said via Skype. “After the shelling, the army came in with light weapons, and the Shabiha followed, armed with knives.”

Clashes inside the besieged village were vicious, he said, noting that "”hole families were killed. There was a real street war for several hours.”

Tremsa is located near Qubeir, where at least 55 people were killed on July 6, according to the Observatory. Like Qubeir, Tremsa is a majority Sunni town situated near Alawite villages.

President Assad belongs to the Alawite community -- an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- although the vast majority of Syrians are Sunni.

Clashes

The state-run SANA news agency said there had been clashes between the army and an armed “terrorist” group in the village but made no mention of a massacre and gave no overall death toll.

“There were heavy losses among the ranks of the terrorists,” said the report, adding that three government soldiers were killed.

However, Al Arabiya reported that clashes between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Assad’s forces in Damascus left at least seven people killed.

Protests broke out across Syria to protest the latest killings in Tremsa. In Kfar Nabul in Hama province, scores of demonstrators gathered and chanted slogans in honor of the dead, according to amateur video posted on YouTube by activists. “O God, we only have you to rely on,” they cried.

Spontaneous protests also erupted in other areas, including the northern province of Aleppo, the country’s commercial hub, according to activists.

Activists say the Syrian government is losing control of growing areas of territory and is now battling to halt the further encroachment of opposition groups in the center of the country.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council wrangled over a resolution on the future of the troubled U.N. mission in Syria, as Russia rejected western demands for sanctions.

Russia and the Western powers have proposed rival resolutions on renewing the U.N. mission in Syria and securing the implementation of Annan’s peace plan.

Russia and China have twice used their powers as permanent members of the 15-nation Council to veto resolutions that just hinted at sanctions.

The first day of talks produced no progress between the two sides. The Security Council must hold a vote before the mandate of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) runs out next week.

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