Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stormed a town outside Damascus, leaving dead bodies piled on the streets and in a mosque during the single bloodiest day of fighting in the 17-month conflict.
Syrian forces killed 320 people during their assault in Dariya last week, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. Across the country, Assad’s forces killed 440 people Aug. 25, “the largest number of people killed in a single day,” the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.
Assad yesterday vowed to win the fight “no matter the cost” and reiterated his charge that a “foreign plot” was behind the violence in the country, according to the SANA state news agency.
International efforts have failed to halt a conflict that, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory, has claimed more than 23,000 lives. United Nations military monitors completed their departure Aug. 24 after the two sides failed to observe an April cease-fire. The UN envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, resigned this month.
“Assaults like the one in Dariya aim to instill fear and prevent people from joining the resistance,” said Andrew Tabler, a Middle East analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. “The government is resorting to these tactics to reassert control.”
State-run television said Syrian forces had killed “terrorists” in Dariya and confiscated weapons and explosives.
Bodies in Mosque
A video posted on YouTube showed the bodies of men covered in blankets and spread out on the floor of the Abu Sulaiman Darani mosque in Dariya. The authenticity of the video, which was uploaded over the weekend, couldn’t be verified by Bloomberg.
The attack on Dariya is the deadliest against a single town since the conflict started in March 2011. At least 78 people were killed by army shelling and attacks by Alawite Shabbiha militia in the village of Qubair in June. A month earlier, 108 people, including 49 children, were killed in Houla.
The assault on Dariya “resulted in hundreds massacred, dozens detained, and utter destruction throughout the city,” the Coordination Committees said on its website.
“The Syrian regime’s appalling repression of its people, over more than 17 months, has left little space for independent observers to operate in Syria,” Alistair Burt, Britain’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, said in an e-mailed statement. “Opposition groups report that over 300 people, including women and children, were killed and that some were shot at close range. If confirmed it would be an atrocity on a new scale, requiring unequivocal condemnation from the entire international community.”
‘Bad to Worse’
The situation in Syria is going from “bad to worse,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Arabi was cited as saying yesterday by Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency.
Turkey has refused entry to 6,000 Syrian refugees since Aug. 25 because of lack of space, while Lebanon has said Palestinian refugees from Syria must leave in 15 days, news agency Al Jazeera reported. Fighter jets attacked Syria’s commercial capital Aleppo, according to the news agency, based in Doha, Qatar.
Government planes also bombed the town of Busra al-Sham in southern Syria, killing 34 people including children, al-Jazeera television reported, citing activists. Al-Arabiya television aired a video after the air strike, showing piles of bodies and a voice of a man shouting “this is what the dogs of Assad have carried out in the town.”
Syrian forces killed 213 people across the country yesterday, including 84 in Damascus and its suburbs, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.
The Iranian television network Alalam yesterday showed footage of a meeting between Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara and the chairman of Iran’s Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Alaeddin Boroujerdi. The meeting was held in Damascus, according to the network. Boroujerdi had a separate meeting with al-Assad, Alalam said. Iran is ally of Assad’s government, which last week denied a report by Dubai-based Al Arabiya channel that Shara had defected to neighboring Jordan.
The uprising against the Syrian government is a plot against the region, in which Syria is a cornerstone, Assad said during the meeting, according to the state-owned SANA news agency.
“The Syrian people won’t let this plot to reach its goals no matter the cost,” Assad said, according to SANA.
Iran opposes foreign interference in regional affairs and concerns about human rights shouldn’t be an excuse for intervention, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in Tehran yesterday, Iranian television network Press TV reported.
“Foreign intervention and taking advantage of the wave of instability that has hit our region is unacceptable,” Salehi said.