There was destruction everywhere and bodies under the rubble, witness says
Beirut: The villagers in Tremseh spent the first hours of the attack in darkness, listening to a massive artillery bombardment, then emerged after dawn to find the streets littered with corpses, reporters were told.
“It began at 4.30am when the first shells landed. I was sleeping and I woke up to the sounds of explosions,” said one resident, Abu Fares.
Power to the village had been cut the day before; all lights were out, mobile phone batteries had drained and landlines were cut. There was no calling for help. Abu Fares and the other residents stayed inside, crouching behind the most solid walls of their homes, and prayed.
“The shelling was too strong to go outside, we did not know what was happening there,” he said. “After some hours everything fell silent. I went outside. There was destruction everywhere and bodies under the rubble. Most of the houses were damaged or destroyed.” One of the video clips that emerged of Thursday morning’s events showed a young man wailing over the body of an elderly man wrapped in a blanket and lying in the street. “Come on, father. For the sake of God, get up,” the man sobs.
An explosion is heard in the background. There was no way to verify the provenance of the video, but by Friday morning activists, residents and Free Syrian Army fighters were claiming death tolls more than 220, most of them young men.
Another video purporting to be of one of the burials showed a shallow trench at least 20 metres long, wide enough for three bodies and lined with breeze blocks.
There are conflicting reports of what happened in Tremseh, a farming village about 35km north-west of the city of Hama. It has a population of about 10,000 people, predominantly Sunnis.Villages mostly inhabited by Alawites, the ruling minority Shiite heterodox sect, surround the town. As well as those killed by shelling, reports have emerged of men killed by gunshots fired at close range.
There were unconfirmed rumours that others had been hacked to death with knives; the government and opposition activists accused each other of summary executions following the initial shell attack. Whilst state television said that “armed terrorists” carried out the killings, referring to the rebel FSA, activists blamed the killings on paid government paramilitaries from the surrounding villages.
“The army surrounded the village with tanks and armoured personnel carriers from four sides and brought in busloads of soldiers,” said Ebrahim Al Hamwi, a member of the Hama Revolutionary Council, speaking from inside Tremseh. “I saw the Shabiha enter the city, they were entering houses and killed some men. They shot others in the street.” Mousab Al Azzawi, director of the London based Syrian Network for Human Rights, said people tried to flee along farm tracks.
“To the west, groups of Shabiha from the nearby village of Khafr Hod were waiting for them there. They had been expecting them to try and escape,” he added. “They dumped them in the dried banks of the Orontes River that runs through the farmland.”