Syrian forces responsible for Banias massacres: U.N. report

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon behind sandbags in the eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, September 9, 2013. Picture taken September 9, 2013. Credit: Reuters
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon behind sandbags in the eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus, September 9, 2013. Picture taken September 9, 2013. Credit: Reuters

U.N. rights investigators have established that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for two massacres last May in which up to 450 civilians were killed, a report published on Wednesday said.

The report documented eight mass killings in all, attributing all but one to government forces, but said both government and rebel fighters had committed war crimes including murder, hostage-taking and shelling of civilians in their battle for territory.

The killings in Baida and Ras al-Nabaa, two pockets of rebel sympathizers surrounded by villages loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of the coastal town of Banias, sent a chilling message of the price to be paid for backing the rebels.

The U.N. commission of inquiry has not been allowed into Syria, but its 20 investigators carried out 258 interviews with refugees, defectors and others, in the region and in Geneva, including via Skype, for their 11th report in two years.

In Baida, it said between 150 and 250 civilians had allegedly been killed, including 30 women, apparently executed, who were found in one house. It said armed rebels were not active in the area at the time.

“Testimonies were consistent that members of the National Defence Forces were actively involved in the raids and in many cases leading them,” the report said.

“Accordingly, there are reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and affiliated militias including the National Defence Forces are the perpetrators of the al-Bayda (Baida) massacre.”

The next day, as word spread that militia fighters were advancing with army support, hundreds of civilians tried to flee the neighboring village of Ras al-Nabaa, but were pushed back at checkpoints. Government forces proceeded to shell the village and then militia fighters moved in.

“As they raided the village, civilians were captured and executed,” the report said, adding: “The operation did not occur in the context of a military confrontation. Government forces were in full control of the area.”

It gave a figure of 150-200 dead in Ras al-Nabaa.

100,000 DEAD

At least 100,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes in the conflict, which began in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad and descended into a civil war where mostly Sunni Muslim rebels are pitted against Assad’s forces, who are backed by Shi’ite Muslim Iran and Hezbollah.

The only deliberate slaughter of civilians attributed to rebel forces in the period of investigation was in June, when rebels captured Hatla in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor.

“During the takeover, anti-government armed group fighters conducted home invasions, killing and summarily executing (by shooting at close range) many Shia including at least 30 civilians, among them children, women and elderly,” it said.

The 42-page report, which largely covered incidents between May and July, also accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of bombing schools and hospitals, and the rebels of carrying out summary executions after sentencing by Islamic Sharia courts lacking due process.

“The perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law,” said the report.

The commission, led by Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil, urged the U.N. Security Council to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The investigators, who include former U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte, analyzed photographs, video and satellite imagery, as well as forensic and medical records, to draw up their report.

The team also verified the killing of 450 people during an offensive by Syrian government forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters to retake the strategic town of Qusair. Food and water were cut off during a siege, and the town was heavily shelled.

“Approximately half were civilian casualties, killed primarily in the shelling and aerial bombardment of the town in the early days of the offensive,” the report said.

U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress on Tuesday to delay a vote on authorizing a military strike against Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons, to give time to a Russian plan to take away Syria’s chemical weapons.

The experts said they had received allegations of chemical weapons use, “predominantly by government forces”, but could not give details of the incidents, some of which have been investigated by U.N. weapons inspectors in the last few weeks.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…