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New report shares shocking details of 2012 massacre of 700 Syrians by Assad regime

Witness testimonies of atrocities in Daraya tell of ‘systematic attack against the civilian population,’ in which entire families were executed, hospitals and schools were bombed

Damaged buildings in Daraya, a Damascus suburb, on August 26, 2016 (AP Photo)
Damaged buildings in Daraya, a Damascus suburb, on August 26, 2016 (AP Photo)

New details of the 2012 massacre in the Syrian town of Daraya, during the early stages of the country’s civil war, have emerged in a comprehensive report issued on Thursday.

The investigation sponsored by the Syrian British Consortium collected evidence and testimonies from witnesses of the atrocities committed by Bashar Assad’s forces in the Damascus suburb a decade ago, providing for the first time in-depth accounts of the killings of some 700 people.

“This investigation reveals that the Assad Government — including the Fourth Division, the Republican Guard, the Air Force Intelligence, shabiha [state sponsored militias] and supporting Hezbollah and Iranian militias — engaged in a systematic attack against the civilian population of Daraya,” the report reads.

“Government and affiliated forces engaged in a massacre, killing men, women and children. Witnesses reported that individuals and entire families were rounded up before being shot and killed at close range in their homes and in building basements.”

The largest such incident to take place, the report said, was the execution of 80 elderly men, women and children at the Al-Saqqa building in Daraya.

Between 44-56 civilians who were attempting to flee the town “were stripped of their belongings and killed” at the Zardeh intersection, the report notes.

Assad’s forces shelled entire neighborhoods and deliberately targeted hospitals and schools “with rockets, missiles, and mortars, as well as helicopter and warplane airstrikes.”

Government forces also engaged “in a campaign of organized looting and destruction,” as described in the report.

Aid ambulances seen next to a destroyed building in Daraya on August 26, 2016. (AP Photo)

Other witnesses described watching soldiers loading trucks and military vehicles with looted items. In one area of the town, witnesses said the army had looted a grocery store, leaving the local population without access to food for the duration of the massacre.

“I was appalled by the audacity of the regime in looting and pillaging the town
after having just committed a brutal massacre,” one witness was cited as saying.

The systematic attack against Daraya’s civilian population took place between August 20-26. By the end of the week, more than 700 people were killed, 514 of whom were identified by name. The remaining corpses were unidentified.

The investigation “showcases that despite the passage of 10 years and the collection of substantial evidence, accountability and justice continue to elude the people of Daraya.”

It said witnesses “provided their testimony, recounting the heinous crimes committed in Daraya by their own government, based on their belief that their story — their truth — is not only worthy of documentation but may one day assist in bringing justice and accountability.”

Sulaiman Alabbar, a witness cited in the report, said: “Healing can only start when the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. Now, people can’t heal and they can’t go back home. Assad is still in power, still committing massacres with no consequences or repercussions.”

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