Syrian village attack 'kills 200'
About 220 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in a village in the rebellious Hama region when it was bombarded by helicopter gunships and tanks then stormed by militiamen who slaughtered some families, opposition sources said today.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" by news of "intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters" in the village of Tremseh.
"I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms," Mr Annan said in a statement.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton expressed outrage at the news and urged the UN Security Council to make clear to Damascus that there would be consequences.
Ms Clinton said accounts of the government attack provided “indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians”.
"We call for an immediate ceasefire in and around Hama to allow the UN observer mission to enter Tremseh," she said in a statement. "Those who committed these atrocities will be identified and held accountable."
UN monitors in Syria tried to reach the scene today but said in a report to their Geneva headquarters that they were prevented by an continuing operation by the Syrian air force in the area, targeting urban population centres.
A local activist named Ahmed told Reuters there were 60 bodies at the mosque, of whom 20 were identified: "There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses."
There was no independent account of the battle, which the government described as a massacre by "terrorist groups".
Syrian state television said there had been fighting in Tremseh and accused "armed terrorist groups" of committing a massacre there, but gave no death toll. It said three soldiers had been killed.
Opposition reports also said rebels of the Free Syrian Army had been killed in a battle.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Everything we have seen of the Syrian regime's behaviour over the last 17 months suggests that these reports are credible. They demand a united response from the international community."
UN monitors must get into Tremseh urgently to find out what happened, Mr Hague said, and the United Nations Security Council must agree to a Chapter VII resolution with teeth that can impose sanctions if Assad fails to fulfill commitments made under the Annan plan, to withdraw his forces from residential areas.
Chapter VII allows the world body to take action ranging from sanctions to military intervention. But Russia and China have used veto powers so far to block such a resolution.