BEIRUT (AP) —International envoy Kofi Annan says he is “shocked and appalled” by reports of a mass killing in the Syrian village of Tremseh. Syrian activists posted graphic videos they say show at least 17 of the dozens of people reportedly killed in heavy government shelling of a farming village in central Syria.
The accounts — some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday — could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion.
Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, head of UN mission sent monitor to the truce, told reporters in Damascus that a group of observers about five kilometers (three miles) away during the violence confirmed the use of heavy weaponry and attack helicopters.
He said his team was ready to investigate if a cease-fire is reached. He singled out the government for using heavy weaponry in populated areas, something it was supposed to have stopped doing three months ago.
The nearly 300 observers in Syria have largely stopped moving around because of continued violence. Government forces have also prevented them from visiting sites of past massacres.
If confirmed, the massacre in the village of Tremseh would be the latest in a string of deadly assaults by President Bashar Assad’s regime as it tries to crush dissent since a nationwide uprising erupted over a year ago.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said early Friday it had reports of more than 150 killed in heavy government shelling there the previous day, though it had collected only 30 names of the victims.
One of the posted videos shows the dead bodies of 15 men lined up on a floor. Some are covered in blood and have wounds to their heads and chests. A second video shows a man’s body lying on a hospital gurney.
Yet another video shows a young man wailing over the body of an elderly grey-haired man wrapped in a blanket and lying in the street.
“Come on, dad. For the sake of God, get up,” the man sobs. A boom is heard in the background.
Much remains unclear about Thursday’s killings in Tremseh, a farming village some 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the central city of Hama. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, said Friday the dead numbered more than 200. It gave no information on how it arrived at that number.
One resident, Laith al-Hamwi, said by phone midday Thursday that government troops were shelling Tremseh with tanks from nearby locations and that many people had fled. He said he thought more than 60 people had been killed but that no one could enter the village because of the shelling.
“There is no way we could take the wounded to the hospital because all the roads are blocked,” said al-Hamwi, who had fled the village hours earlier.
Residents could not immediately be reached by telephone on Friday, and activist claims and videos could not be independently verified.
The Syrian government gave a very different story of the Tremseh killing, with the state news agency saying that dozens of members of “armed terrorist groups” had raided the village and were randomly firing on residents.
Security forces clashed with the armed men, killing and capturing many of them, the report said. It said three soldiers and some 50 residents were killed. According to Israel Radio, the state agency said they arrested several of the terrorists and found them in possession of Israeli weapons.
The agency provided no photos or videos. Assad’s regime has denied popular calls for political reform since the start of the country’s revolt in March, 2011, and refers to those seeking its overthrow as terrorists.
Activists say more than 14,000 have been killed in the uprising, most of them civilians. The government says more than 4,000 members of the security forces have been killed. It does not provide numbers of civilian dead.