06/08/12 #Syria UN monitors visit Al Qubair
This was the last time that Mr Hemary, 30, spoke to his brother before he was killed inside the family home in the Syrian hamlet of al-Qubeir on Wednesday.
He was among 78 victims who are believed to have died in a frenzied onslaught in this village in a farming district some 15 miles from the city of Hama.
The full horror of the atrocity was betrayed by bloody videos of mutilated children’s bodies and charred corpses.
In a few hours, almost the entire population of al-Qubeir was massacred in what appears to have been one of the bloodiest incidents since the start of the Syrian uprising.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were responsible, according to opposition activists. They said that regular forces were working in tandem with a pro-government militia, known as the Shabiha, recruited largely from Mr Assad’s minority Alawite sect.
The regime’s troops began the attack on Wednesday afternoon with a heavy artillery barrage, said the activists. Then Shabiha militiamen entered the hamlet armed with sticks, guns and knives. They attacked homes and farmhouses, shooting and slaughtering all the inhabitants they could find.
Mr Hemary and his cousin were among only a handful of survivors of the massacre. “I could see thick smoke rising from al-Qubeir,” he said. “I called my brother constantly on the mobile. He was hiding in our home. He told me cars full of Shabiha had come to the village and were attacking everyone and burning houses.”
At 5.10pm, three hours after the attack began, Mr Hemary’s brother’s voice died away and he stopped answering his calls. Pushing open the door of his home several hours later, Mr Hemary found the bodies of his mother, three sisters and three brothers lying bloodied on the ground.
“They had been beaten on the head by sticks and stabbed with knives,” he said. “I went to other homes. I saw family after family slaughtered by knives.”
After the militia departed and al-Qubeir fell quiet later that evening, people from nearby villages ventured into the stricken hamlet. “I saw a two-month-old child without a head,” said Abou Hisham al-Hamouli, who lives in a village just over a mile from al-Qubeir. “I saw the burnt corpse of a woman. Her two children were wrapped around, hugging her. They died like that. There were two many burnt bodies.”
Other eyewitnesses reported how the militiamen sang songs in praise of Mr Assad.
A former soldier who joined the rebel Free Syrian Army said that he reached the village within hours of the massacre, but left quickly because Syrian government troops were still in the area. “I went into houses and saw children without a head, and others without arms. Some were burned and some were without eyes,” he said.
There were only five known survivors, he added. The exact number of victims could not be confirmed, but people from the nearby village of Maarizab said they had buried 57 corpses. A further thirty bodies were missing and had not yet been buried, said activists.
With almost no foreign reporters in Syria, the accounts of what happened in this remote farming village cannot be independently verified.
The massacre comes less than two weeks after an atrocity in the town of al-Houla in Homs province, where eyewitnesses blamed the killing on the same Shabiha milita.