Gunmen attack Syrian TV station Assad talks of war

The New York Times reports: A day after President Bashar al-Assad said Syria was living in a “state of war,” rebels operating with increasing audacity around the capital were reported by the country’s official media on Wednesday to have stormed into a pro-government television station, killed several employees and planted explosives that destroyed studios.

But the rebels denied carrying out the attack, saying a unit of the elite Syrian Republican Guard assigned to guard the station defected and attacked other government soldiers who had remained loyal. The conflicting versions offered graphic testimony to the difficulties facing outsiders in ascertaining the true course of events in a war from which independent reporters as well as international relief and monitoring officials are effectively barred.

On Wednesday, for instance, the United Nations Human Right Council in Geneva, which is investigating human rights violations in Syria, said it was unable to determine conclusively who was responsible for the May 25 massacre of 108 civilians in the western region of Houla, but it “considers that forces loyal to the government may have been responsible for many of the deaths.”

While the panel accused government forces of committing violations on “an alarming scale” in recent months, it also found that both sides had carried out summary executions.

“Gross human rights violations are occurring regularly in the context of increasingly militarized fighting,” Paulo Pinheiro, the Brazilian chairman of the panel, said.

The attack on the al-Ikhbaria satellite broadcaster began before dawn on Wednesday when assailants “planted explosive devices in the headquarters of al-Ikhbaria following their ransacking and destroying of the satellite channel studios, including the newsroom studio which was entirely destroyed,” the official Syrian news agency SANA reported.

The news agency referred to the assailants as terrorists — the usual official language to denote armed opponents Mr. Assad’s government. While initial reports from SANA said three employees were killed, a subsequent official estimate put the death toll at seven.

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