In this week alone, based on the numbers of casualties being compiled by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, 1,075 people have been killed. The worst atrocities are alleged to have taken place in Banias and Bayda.
The Observer reports: The pictures appear to tell a familiar story. In one a pile of bodies lies on a street corner, shot down, apparently where they were gathered. Among them is a girl in a red blouse, perhaps five years old, spreadeagled among a dozen other family members, some covered in sheets. A baby’s legs are visible and a crumpled man has apparently been shot through the spine.
According to Syrian opposition activists, these killings happened in the coastal city of Banias, a Sunni family gunned down in the midst of the Alawite heartland, the Shia minority sect largely loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Although the pictures could not immediately be verified, video and other pictures appeared to confirm reports of whole families being killed in two massacres by a pro-government militia in the past two days, prompting thousands to attempt to flee the area. In a statement, the US State Department said it was “appalled” by the latest reports.
According to reports, the first incident is alleged to have taken place in the village of Bayda on Thursday, while overnight fresh killings were reported by activists inside Banias itself, blamed on gangs of pro-regime loyalists. Images claimed to have been taken in Bayda on Thursday showed the bodies of several men, some apparently blindfolded, lying in the street.
Confirming violence in the area, Syrian state television said it had fought back against “terrorist groups” to restore security and showed what it said was a large cache of weapons seized during the fighting. A video posted online by activists appeared to show what was said to be the bodies of 20 people in the town, all from the same family, killings blamed on the National Defence Forces, a new paramilitary group made up mostly of fighters from minorities that back Assad.
Along with the cities of Tartus and Latakia, Banias – which has seen relatively little violence – is at the centre of the Alawite “heartland”, referring to the minority Shia sect of which Assad and many of his closest supporters are members. Some analysts have speculated that, in the event of the breakup of Syria, the Assad regime and Alawites might attempt to set up their own mini-state in this coastal strip.
According to some sources, Sunni families were being blocked from fleeing south to the town of Tartus at government checkpoints. [Continue reading…]