More than 100 killed in new Syria 'massacre'
DAMASCUS, Syria - More than 100 civilians have been killed in a new "massacre" in Syria, a watchdog said Thursday, January 17, 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 on Tuesday swept through farmlands north of Homs city, where it said around 1,000 people had sought refuge from fighting in 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 most strategic city in the country's largest province, 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" -- a term used by the regime for insurgents -- in the area, but activists said there were no insurgents there.
"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 oF the regime.
The Observatory urged the UN to send a fact-finding team to probe the latest bloodshed.
The reported deaths were the latest to emerge from Syria, where twin blasts on Tuesday tore through an Aleppo campus while students were sitting exams.
At least 87 people were killed in one of the bloodiest attacks of the 22-month conflict, in a city that has suffered some $2.5 billion in damage in six months of bitter conflict, according to Aleppo's governor.
No one claimed responsibility for the Aleppo blasts, but the United States blamed government forces for the violence, suggesting they were caused by air strikes on university buildings.
The remarks by US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland triggered an angry Russian response.
"I cannot imagine anything more blasphemous," said Moscow's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, describing the killings as a "terrorist act."
Violence erupted again in Syria on Thursday, with the Observatory reporting several air strikes on flashpoints in Damascus province and Kafr Nabuda in the central province of Hama.
In the Husseiniyeh area near the capital, warplanes dropped three missiles killing 11 civilians, among them seven children, said the Observatory.
An air strike on Kafr Nabuda killed another four children, the monitoring group said, adding that more than 3,500 children have been killed in Syria's conflict.
Meanwhile, in the majority Kurdish town of Ras al-Ain, in the northern province of Hasakeh, unprecedentedly fierce fighting pitted rebels against pro-regime Kurdish fighters, the Observatory said.
Unlike in previous clashes in Ras al-Ain, jihadists did not join the fight alongside the rebels on Thursday.
But a senior Jordanian salafist said two prominent jihadists were killed in fighting regime troops alongside Al-Nusra Front fighters in Syria, among them a brother-in-law of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The Observatory gave a death toll for Thursday of 127 killed -- 68 civilians, 34 rebels and 25 soldiers.
More than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria's conflict, according to the United Nations, while the Observatory says it has documented more than 48,000 dead.
The conflict has sent some 600,000 people fleeing the country, most of them to neighbouring countries, according to the UN.
An official in Iraq said it will reopen two border points to Jordan and Syria more than a week after they were closed after protests against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Anbar blocked the main route linking Baghdad to the two countries. - Rappler.com