Pro-government forces in Syria are accused of killing more than 200 residents of a small village near Hama, in what may the worst single incident of the 16-month uprising. Opposition activists say the regime carried out "ethnic cleansing," using tanks and helicopters to bombard the town of Tremseh, a mostly Sunni village that that is surrounded by Alawite communities loyal to Bashar al-Assad.
The New York Times described the assault this way:
He said a convoy of vehicles from Alawite villages had parked outside the village early Thursday, including five trucks filled with soldiers, and began shooting. They were backed by tanks along the village’s eastern edge. Pro-Assad militiamen known as shabiha deployed on the western edge of the village, he said, and “fired at anyone or any car that tried to leave the village.”
The Syrian government confirmed that there was an assault on the city, but as they typically do, they blamed it on "foreign terrorists" using "Israeli weapons" and claimed the death toll was far lower.
The attack came on the same day that the U.N. Security Council meets to discuss a new resolution intended to stop the fighting, but as usual, Russia continues to stand in the way of any resolution that calls for sanctions or the removal of Assad. Without their vote, none of the U.N. actions can possibly hold any teeth, as evidenced by a cease fire that was declared back in April and has gone completely unheeded. Syria's Muslim Brotherhood also condemned Russia and Iran, saying they consider those nations to be complicit in Assad's crimes.
Finally, there was more troubling news out of Syria as The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe that Syria has begun moving its huge stockpiles of mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, and cyanide out of storage to new locations. The movement could simply be a means of protecting their chemical weapons from rebel attacks or as a way to frighten the opposition, but if the government plans to use them, it could signal a serious turning point in the war.
The only bright side of that move is that using (or threatening to use) chemical weapons against its own people might be the one thing that could prompt international intervention as the regime would be crossing a previously unimaginable line. Syria never signed a 1992 international chemical weapons treaty and may have the largest stockpile of any other nation in the Middle East.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.