A New Massacre in Syria?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 26 2012 3:41 PM

Syrian Government Accused of Carrying Out Massacre Near Capital, Killing Hundreds

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Syrian youths shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Syria's northern city of Aleppo

Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GettyImages

Evidence continues to mount that supports claims by opposition activists that Syrian government forces massacred hundreds of people in the Damascus suburb of Daraya over the past week. Activists say around 320 bodies have been found, including women and children, most of whom were reportedly summarily executed during raids, reports Reuters. Videos released by the opposition showed most of the bodies appeared to be of young men, but there were also several children who appeared to have been shot in the head.

The New York Times files a report from Daraya, describing the mass burials in the town, noting that despite the difficulty in confirming the claims by the opposition there are signs that a massacre did indeed take place. The opposition says more than 630 people were killed in the city throughout the week, including nearly 300 who appear to have been executed. The Syrian military’s offensive on Daraya “has begun to look like one of the deadliest and focused short-term assaults” of the 18-month conflict, reports the Times.

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Britain expressed concern over the reports of the massacre Sunday with Middle East Minister Alistair Burt saying that if confirmed, it “would be an atrocity on a new scale requiring unequivocal condemnation from the entire international community,” reports the Associated Press. The intense battle that government forces had to wage in Daraya illustrates just how much the President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is struggling to hold on to Damascus and its suburbs.

In other news out of Syria, Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa made his first public appearance in weeks, effectively ending rumors that he had defected, reports Reuters. Meanwhile, fighting in the northern city of Aleppo intensified Sunday as regime forces dropped bombs and fired missiles on rebel-held areas.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.