Syrian army accused of slaughtering 106 civilians

More than 100 civilians have been killed in a new “massacre” in Syria, a watchdog said, as Russia slammed the United States for blaming deadly blasts at a university campus on the Damascus regime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the deaths came when the army swept through farmlands north of Homs city, where it said around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting ravaging the central Syria metropolis.

“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.

Homs, dubbed “the capital of the revolution” by Syria’s opposition, is the largest and most strategic city and 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.

Pro-regime daily Al-Watan reported army advances against “gunmen” — the term used by the regime for insurgents — in the area. Activists said there were no insurgents in the area.

“They came in and slaughtered the women and the children. They burned their bodies,” an unidentified woman told an anti-regime activist, according to amateur video distributed by Homs-based opponents to the regime. “I swear there are no armed men here.”

Paris meanwhile denounced the killings as “new proof of the savagery of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” French foreign ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani said.

The reported deaths were the latest to emerge from Syria, where twin blasts on Tuesday tore through an Aleppo campus while students were writing exams, killing at least 87 people in one of the bloodiest attacks of the 22-month conflict.

No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo blasts but the US 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.

Nuland’s remarks triggered an angry response from Russia.

“I cannot imagine anything more blasphemous,” said Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, describing the killings as a “terrorist act.”

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