Houla massacre: Syria blames rebels

2012-05-31 22:35

Beirut - Syria on Thursday blamed up to 800 rebel fighters for the massacre in central Syria last week that killed more than 100 people, nearly half of them children, in its most comprehensive explanation to date of the bloodshed.

The narrative starkly contradicted accounts of witnesses who blamed "shabiha" or the shadowy gunmen who operate on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The UN also said it had strong suspicions those pro-regime gunmen were responsible for much of the carnage on Friday in a cluster of villages known as Houla.

Facing international outrage over the killings, Damascus launched its own investigation into the deaths and announced that special prayers for the victims would be held at mosques across the country on Friday.

The UN chief warned of civil war and pleaded with the regime to stop its attacks.

At a news conference on Thursday, Qassem Jamal Suleiman, who headed the government's investigation into the massacre, categorically denied any regime role. He said hundreds of rebel gunmen carried out the slaughter after launching a co-ordinated attack on five security checkpoints.

The aim, he said, was to frame the government and to ignite sectarian strife in Syria.

"Government forces did not enter the area where the massacre occurred, not before the massacre and not after it," he said, adding that the victims were families who refused to oppose the government or carry arms.


Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi said the aim was to create sedition in Syria.

"There are people in dark rooms working night and day to target Syria ... and the way to do it is to ignite civil strife," he told reporters at the same news conference. "They will not succeed."

The Houla massacre was one of the deadliest incidents since the uprising against Assad's hardline regime started in March last year. Activists say about 13 000 have been killed in 15 months.

The area is still under attack.

The government focused its shelling on Thursday on the Houla village of al-Tibeh.

The activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that some residents fled to nearby towns and villages "fearing a new massacre" as the area again came under fire.

Persistent bloodshed despite a cease-fire agreement has raised pressure on the international community to act.

But Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton laid out the clearest case yet for why the Obama administration is reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria even as the US expressed revulsion over the Houla killings.


Clinton said Russia and China would have to agree before the US and other nations engage in what could become a protracted conflict in support of a disorganised rebel force.

"We're nowhere near putting together any type of coalition other than to alleviate the suffering," Clinton told reporters on Thursday after meeting with top officials in Denmark, a key contributor to last year's Nato-led mission against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Russia's continued support for Assad "is going to help contribute to a civil war", Clinton warned.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria to stop the bloodshed and also warned of a protracted conflict.

Nearly 300 UN observers have been deployed around Syria to monitor a cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect on 12 April as part of a peace plan negotiated by international envoy Kofi Annan.

But the plan has unravelled amid daily visit and the images from the Houla massacre caused outrage to spike.

Civil war

"The massacre of civilians of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war - a civil war from which the country would never recover," Ban said in Istanbul.

He added that the international community was united in demands that the Syrian government act on its responsibilities to its people.

"Let me state plainly, however: The UN did not deploy in Syria just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents," he added. "We are not there to play the role of passive observer to unspeakable atrocities."

Annan, meanwhile, arrived in Lebanon, where 10 people were killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Syrian groups earlier this month, raising fears the conflict could spill over to neighbouring countries.

In the wake of last week's massacre, the United States, Western and Asian nations expelled Syrian diplomats in protest.

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 01:42

    Anyone who believes the Assad regime is seriously off-course, far from the truth.

      jaba.kov - 2012-06-01 12:18

      Assad, the butcher of Damascus, will pay with his life...much like his murderous friend from Libya.

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 02:23

    So according to Assad, the rebels killed their own families

      Thisme - 2012-06-01 04:51

      That can easily has happened in other countries in the past ...when you are so desperate to take over a country like these rebels are, then you are prepared to kill your own people to get the rest of the world behind you. Anyways who knows where these rebels come from?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-06-01 06:38

      Thisme, Than explain the following; When the Syrian army moves into a town, the population flees, But when the 'rebels', aka opposition, or the FSA moves in, the population stays!! And are you really that ignorant, that in a country, that has been ruled by an iron fist, for nearly 50 years !!, and the population sees a chance to get rid of their tyrants, they would not grab this chance! If Syria had a government, made up from a majority party/tribe,where there was rule of law, and the average Syrian would live an ok standard, one could question the stregth of an opposition. But in Syria, you have an illegitimate regime, ( the father of this assad, hijacked this country ) there have been no elections for almost 50 years, this assad family is from a tiny tribe, 50 % of the population lives on less than 2 dollars a day, thousands of opposition members have lost their lives over the past 5 decades. And you want to know, where these 'rebels' , aka opposition, come from???????? You can't be serious !!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-06-01 06:59

      The so called rebels are a rabble of armed Al Qaede thugs who haven't hesitated to kill their own in the past. Slitting throats seems to be their preferred method of killing.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 07:28

      Not according to the villagers who survived the attacks. Unanimously they say it was Assad's black-hooded militia.

      Fidel - 2012-06-01 07:47

      Deception, to whip up condemnation against the Syrian government and support for the armed thugs, it's been done many times during conflicts.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 08:12

      They're interviewed on video with UN observers present

      Harold - 2012-06-01 09:17

      Those killed were part of the Alawite clan - the same clan as Assad. All evidence points to the killers being one of the Islamist groups from south-east Syria (many veterans of the Iraq insurgency) and with strong links to Al-Quaeda. This is a clan-based conflict, which the west is using to further their aims of undermining Iranian alliances in the region and which the Islamists are using to try to overthrow a secular government to replace it with an Islamist one. In between, various clans with their own rivalries are taking advantage to wreck bloody vengeance on each other. What is stoking the flames is the fact that the west and its middle-eastern allies (Turkey, Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, etc) are supplying weapons, training and logistic support to a number of factions, and distorting the news coming out of the country, in order to pursue their own agendas. Russia and China are well aware of this and will not allow themselves to be manipulated again like they were with Libya (which was a similar situation).

      Fidel - 2012-06-01 09:26

      A 1000 recommends Harold!

      jaba.kov - 2012-06-01 12:35

      Stop lying Harold! The armed civilian militias from nearby Alawite villages (who are known to Syrians as shabiha, from the Arabic word for ghosts) killed 108 people in Houla, including 49 children, in cold blood. ASSAD's clan the Alawite clan is doing the killings where Assad can’t send his army to do his very dirty work. Assad has armed his clan with Russian automatic guns and ammunition. His clan is a minority who is ruling over a majority. Harold, Fidel & Patrick are supporting the system of apartheid in Syria!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 15:56

      UN observers interviewed villagers who survived the attacks on camera. They identified Assad's black-hooded militia as the perpetrators. This prompted the UN to demand that Assad stop his attacks. All this is on record. You are complicit in the murder of Syrians and the destruction of Syria. These are not just words. This is a Quantum universe.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 16:20

      Harold, you're as delusional and complicit in the murder of Syrians and destruction of Syria as Patrick and Fidel

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 02:35

    Special note to Patrick and Fidel: "The UN chief warned of civil war and pleaded with the regime to stop its attacks."

      Harold - 2012-06-01 09:21

      The UN is fed information by 'sources' who have their own agenda. They do not have the manpower present to do an actual investigation of their own.

      Fidel - 2012-06-01 09:27

      The UN seems to be only interested in sourcing evidence from the terrorists!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 16:00

      You are complicit in the murder of Syrian families and the destruction of Syria. You are delusional Patrick, and you are a pathological liar Fidel.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 17:28

      The UN statement is about the Houla massacre

  • Fidel - 2012-06-01 06:52

    We all know who has a history of decapitating their captives or opponents!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 07:29

      Assad's militia carried out the attacks according to the villagers who survived.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 07:29

      This is why the UN made the statement above, at the risk of being seen to take sides

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 08:23

      Special note to Patrick and Fidel: "The UN chief warned of civil war and pleaded with the regime to stop its attacks."

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 16:01

      Your blindness seems to know no bounds Patrick. This is an article on the Houla massacre. The UN statement was in relation to that massacre.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 17:29

      It's exactly the other way around. But I understand you can't see this. You've blinded yourself effectively.

  • William - 2012-06-01 12:19

    I disagree!! What MORE do Syria have to do to convince Russia and China to drop support for them. People seem to think that eventually Russia will give in and take a more hard line stance towards Asaad. It would appear that even the mass execution of women and children is not enough for Russia or the international community??!! The worst part is that Syria is completely aware that they can get away with murder, and they are!!!!

      Fidel - 2012-06-01 12:27

      Who has been planting bombs in Syria and blowing up civilians? Whose modus operandi is the slitting of its opponents' throats? Do you know who is responsible for this mass execution?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 16:02

      Fidel, the more Assad murders Syrians and destroys Syria, the more vocal and delusional you become.

  • wesleywt - 2012-06-01 17:16

    Only a moron would believe that the rebels killed their own children. I see they are out in force on this story.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-01 22:55

      Assad has lived in a world where he's controlled the media, basically controlling what people think. He thinks he can get away with these open lies. He won't.

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