Syrian opposition activists accused President Bashar al-Assad’s army yesterday of massacring hundreds of people in a town close to the capital that government forces recaptured from rebels.
In the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, some 320 bodies, including women and children, were found in houses and basements, according to activists who said most had been killed “execution-style” by troops in house-to-house raids.
Activists uploaded several videos to the internet showing rows of bloodied bodies wrapped in sheets. Most of the dead appeared to be young men of fighting age, but at least one video showed several children who appeared to have been shot in the head. The body of one toddler was soaked in blood.
Due to restrictions on non-state media in Syria, it was impossible to independently verify the accounts.
Clashes are raging across Syria as the 17-month-old rebellion grows increasingly bloody, particularly in the northern city of Aleppo, where the army and rebels appear stuck in a war of attrition.
Fighting in Aleppo yesterday was the heaviest in the past week, according to Reuters journalists on the ground.
Fighter jets dropped bombs and fired missiles on rebel-held districts in the south of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, as residents fled in panic. Reuters journalists there heard heavy explosions as clouds of black smoke rose a mile into the air.
The uprising, which began as peaceful protests, has become a brutal civil war. UN investigators have accused both sides of war crimes but laid more blame on government troops and pro-government militia than on the rebels.
The killings in Daraya, a working-class Sunni Muslim town that sustained three days of bombardment before being overrun by the army on Friday, raised the daily death toll to 440 people on Saturday, one of the highest since the uprising began, an activist network called the Local Coordination Committees said.
The official state news agency said: “Our heroic armed forces cleansed Daraya from remnants of armed terrorist groups who committed crimes against the sons of the town.”
The death toll for yesterday was more than 90, including civilians and fighters, according to another activist network, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It said at least eight people were killed and dozens wounded last night when security forces shelled the southern town of Basra al-Sham in Deraa province, with the death toll likely to rise as many of the wounds were severe.
Assad, who met an Iranian parliamentary delegation in Damascus yesterday, said the crisis was the result of Western and regional states trying to crush Syria’s role in the “resistance” against Western and Israeli domination in the region.
“What is happening right now is not just a plot directed against Syria but the region as a whole, of which Syria is a foundational stone,” he was cited as saying by state news agency.