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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: A New "Massacre"?

A Thursday night demonstration in support of the victims of Tremseh in Syria

See also Syria Special: A Massacre in Tremseh --- What We Know So Far
Bahrain Exclusive: An Interview with Maryam Alkhawaja<
Syria Document: The Map of Sexualised Violence
Bahrain Feature: The "Security" Web --- The Kingdom Talks with Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the US
Thursday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: An Ambassador Defects

1902 GMT: Syria. An activist shares a series of videos that show that the FSA has made more effective attacks in the mountainous Jabal Zawiyah region of Idlib province. These videos were reportedly taken in Rami (map):

Another activist makes a bold claim, which we cannot verify at this point:

1854 GMT: Syria. UN monitors have not been able to reach Tremseh, the area of yesterday's reported massacre, but they have confirmed that not only were heavy weapons used against the area yesterday, heavy weapons are still being used today:

General Robert Mood, who has led the UN presence in Syria since April, said his members were ready to enter the town of Tremseh if a truce there took hold. He said monitors stationed in the area had personally verified that heavy weapons were directed against Tremseh on Thursday.

Late on Friday the UN said observers had been unable to contact the local military commander responsible for the area near Tremseh and its members had been refused access. It claimed the Syrian air force "continued to attack populated urban areas on a large scale" and said its observers had logged more than 100 explosions in an "ongoing military operation".

1828 GMT: Syria. The LCC posts two videos reportedly taken in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus (map). Earlier, we reported that large protests were fired on, and 7 were killed (see update 1546). Now, this first video shows wounded evacuated after the protests were fired on.

The second video is even more interesting, because the LCC claims that Free Syrian Army soldiers entered into combat with the regime forces when they assaulted the protests:

In both Damascus and Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army appears to be defending the protests, and at least some of those fighters have engaged in fighting when they were confronted.

1809 GMT: Syria. Since this morning there have been rumors that the fighting had intensified in Izaz, a key town north of Aleppo and close to the border with Turkey (map). Videos showed tanks moving into the area. However, videos like this one, posted by AFP, show that the Free Syrian Army was ready to meet them head on:

Now, there is evidence that several tanks have been disabled by the FSA fighters:

1627 GMT: Syria. The LCC has raised its death toll to 66:

24 are in Idlib, 14 in Homs, 12 in Aleppo, 7 in Damascus in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp, 3 in Daraa, 2 in Damascus Suburbs, 2 in Hama,1 in Deir Ezzor and 1 in Lattakia.

1546 GMT: Syria. The protests in Al Bab are hardly the only large crowds today. There are reports of large protests, protests that were reportedly met by violence, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Yarmouk, in southern Damascus (map):

More large crowds in Yalda, in the southern outskirts of Damascus (map):

There are reports that protesters are gathering once again in the Saleh el Dine district of Aleppo (map). What's interesting is that last week tens of thousands gathered here, but those crowds were fired into by Syrian security forces. This time, the video below shows Free Syrian Army fighters moving through the crowd, reportedly in order to protect it from attack. I do not believe that EA has ever seen direct evidence of FSA fighters operating inside Aleppo city:

The Guardian catches the always-impressive crowd in Kafranbel, Idlib (map), where today's English message reads, "God hates Assad for shedding innocent blood, Annan's heart which devised wicked plans, and Putin for his lying tongue."

These are just a small sample of today's protests. Like most Fridays, we've seen hundreds of videos of large crowds in many areas of the country.

1535 GMT: Syria. Many activists are buzzing about a huge protest in the small town of Al Bab, in Aleppo (map), a protest, led by a man from Homs, in a heavily fought over region:

1526 GMT: Syria/Iran. Iranian Press TV has a different take on the Tremseh massacre --- it was committed by gangs who seek to tarnish the image of the Assad government.

1515 GMT: Syria. A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said today that France will begin to supply communications equipment to the Syrian opposition.

The United States has also said that it has supplied communications equipment to the opposition, which is likely one of the reasons why there are so many videos that escape the country, despite widespread internet outages, particularly in areas that are hard hit by government crackdowns and military attacks.

1506 GMT: Syria. While all eyes are understandably on yesterday's news in Tremseh, large protests have been held nationwide in memory of the victims and defiance of the regime. So far, 56 people have been killed today, according to the Local Coordinating Committees.

Of those, 24 are in Idlib, 10 in Homs, 10 in Aleppo, 4 in Damascus, 3 in Daraa, 2 in Damascus Suburbs, and one martyrs in each of Hama, Deir Ezzor, and Lattakia.

1435 GMT: Syria. Activist Hama Echo has spoken with a contact inside Tremseh, identified as Mahmoud al-Alaiwi, and has the following report:

Hama Echo is an important source, someone with many contacts inside the opposition, and so is trying to verify as much information as he can. He also posts the names of 103 people killed in the massacre. While at this point this information is impossible to verify, the more information that comes out now, the easier it will be to verify information in the coming days.

1416 GMT: Syria. The Guardian has spoken to Khalid Saleh, executive member of the Syrian National Council, about the Tremseh massacre. According to Saleh, the massacre may have been an attempt to boost the moral of the Syrian regular army (ironic, in light of our previous update). Saleh also assures The Guardian that the evidence that 200+ have been killed in Tresmeh is extremely well documented.

Saleh also responded to questions about the opposition's recent meetings with the Russian government in Moscow:

He said Russia's support for Assad was inconsistent and showing signs of wavering.

"The Russians are still talking about a dialogue with the Assad regime, this is not something that the forces on the ground, or Syrian National Council, are willing to accept.

"Although the Russians say they are not holding firmly to Assad, in one sentence, in the next sentence, they are asking us still to have a dialogue with him. They are giving us two different positions within 60 seconds."

Asked if the SNC left Moscow empty handed, he said:

"We made some progress ... it was semi-promising that the Russians are saying they are not holding firm to Assad and they are not insisting on him remaining in power.

"Some parts of the Russian delegation were more understanding than other parts. They understand that there is a very heavy price for their delay. They understand that their delaying tactics are really supporting the Assad [regime] and the killing of civilians."

1408 GMT: Syria. The Lebanese publication The Daily Star reports a large number of defections overnight, both officers and enlisted soldiers:

Two Syrian brigadier generals and a score of other soldiers crossed into Turkey, bringing the total number of high-ranking defectors to 17 amid escalating violence, Anatolia news agency said Friday.

A total of 227 Syrians fled to Turkey from neighbouring Syria overnight, including the two brigadiers who deserted from Bashar al-Assad's army to join the rebels based on the Turkish side of the border, the agency said.

1343 GMT: Syria. We have made an update to our article, A Massacre in Tremseh --- What We Know So Far.

"Hama Echo," an activist in Hama, is collecting some key videos that he believes are reliable. So far, there are a collection of videos showing the bodies being laid in mass graves, and people moving bodies out of the mosque. We'll focus on two that give us the most information.

The first shows a series of bodies (we count 35) laid in a row, having been wrapped in burial garments.

The second video may have been taken before this, as it shows unwrapped bodies. Some of them have been burned, and some appear much smaller than others, possibly indicating that children are among the dead, though this has not been confirmed:

The AFP has posted a report from an activist who is part of the Sham News Network, an anti-Assad activist network, that claims that most of the dead were Free Syrian Army fighters:

"The rest were members of the [rebel] Free Syrian Army," he told AFP.

"An army convoy was on its way to the region of Hama when it was attacked by the FSA," he said. "The army staged a counter-attack with the support of [pro-regime] reinforcements from [nearby] Alawite villages. The FSA resisted for an hour before it was defeated."

An activist at a media center in Hama also said "a large number of rebels were killed in fighting between the FSA and the regular army."

Identifying herself as Mariam, she told AFP by Skype that the incident occurred when government forces stormed the village in a bid to retake it and the rebels withdrew when they found themselves outnumbered.

1208 GMT: Syria. In the last several days there have been reports of renewed government crackdown in Houla, the site of the previous infamous massacre, with reports of periodic shelling. Today, multiple sources report that there have been protests there, despite the ever-present threat of government violence:

1134 GMT: Syria. The UN envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan has condemned that massacre in Tresmeh, and has placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Assad regime:

Referring to the killings as “atrocities,” Mr. Annan spoke in a statement of “intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters.”

“This is in violation of the government’s undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers”and its commitment to a peace plan sponsored by Mr. Annan.

Meanwhile, General Mood, the head of the UN monitoring mission, has said that the monitors will try to reach the site if there is a "credible ceasefire."

Little information is known right now. Activists who have spoken to The Guardian report that satellite connections, internet, and phones have gone dead.

If the Qubair massacre is any indication, news from Tremseh will take some time. First of all, the area is fairly remote, and the area is likely controlled by the military. In Qubair, the military occupied the village the next day, and by the time the UN and international reports arrived at the scene there was nothing left by blood and burned ruins.

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started while on the road.

0950 GMT: Syria. Syrian news agency SANA's explanation of the mass killings in Tremseh:

Tens of terrorists overrun the village of al-Treimseh in Hama Countryside yesterday, killing or wounding tens of Syrian civilians.

The terrorists, according to eye witnesses who appeared on Syrian TV to narrate the reality of events on the ground, ransacked, destroyed and burned scores of the village houses before the competent authorities arrive to the village.

Abo Arif al-Khalid, an eye witness from the targeted village, stated in a phone call to Syrian TV, that the village of al-Treimseh lived a nightmare when armed terrorist groups attacked it and opened random fire on its inhabitants and houses, killing more than 50 persons, and exploding houses, among which the house of his cousin.

A woman and her child were killed by the terrorists before the eyes of all the people there, added Abo Arif al-Khalid, regretting the absence of the Syrian Army or security personnel from the village.

''Had the Army or security personnel existed in the village, the terrorists wouldn't have been able to overrun the village and perpetrate their massacres,'' said Abo Arif al-Khalid with a crying voice.

The competent security units, in response to al-Treimseh inhabitants' pleads, clashed with the terrorists, inflicting huge losses upon them, capturing scores of them, confiscating their weapons, among which Israeli-made machineguns.

3 security personnel were martyred during the clashes, according to SANA reporter in Hama.

Meantime, an information source blasted the news circulated by some bloody media outlets, like al-Jazeera and al-Arabyia, as a bid to manipulate public opinion against Syria and its people and as to bring foreign intervention in Syria on the eve of a UN Security Council session.

The source underscored that the phobia from the foiling of the conspiracy against Syria by some Zionist media channels, which are partners in the aggression against the Syrian People, led these media outlets into a hysterical situation, so that they disseminated lies and fabrications not to mention their old and out of place and Syrian geography scenes of events and demonstrations.

0940 GMT: Syria. Claimed footage of regime tanks entering Tremseh before yesterday's mass killing of residents:

0830 GMT: Syria. The opposition Syrian National Council has called on the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution condemning the Assad regime over the mass killings in Tremseh, opening up the prospect of international intervention.

The SNC asserted, "To stop this bloody madness which threatens the entity of Syria, as well as peace and the security in the region and in the world, requires an urgent and sharp resolution of the Security Council under Chapter VII (of the UN Charter) which protects the Syrian people.

Chapter VII allows for punitive measures against regimes considered a threat to the peace, including economic sanctions and military action.

The SNC continued, "We expect members of the Security Council to assume total responsibility to protect defenceless Syrians against these shameful crimes."

The Muslim Brotherhood, a member of the SNC, said United Nations envoy Kofi Annan, Iran, and Russia must share blame because of their inaction: "We don't consider the monster Bashar [President Assad] as being solely responsible for this heinous crime...but (also) Kofi Annan, the Russians and the Iranians and all countries which pretend to be guardians of peace and stability in the world but who remain silent."

0720 GMT: Syria. After meetings with Syrian opposition groups, including the Syrian National Council, in Moscow this week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has issued a declaration that needs de-cyphering: “To be honest, we do not see our partners being as ready (as Russia) to work with the opposition, and [United Nations] Kofi Annan is the main mediator of this process. Unfortunately, so far we don’t see any practical results from his and his team’s contact with the opposition."

0717 GMT: Syria. US officials claim that Damascus has begun moving parts of its arsenal of chemical weapons out of storage facilities.

Washington and European allies have expressed concern over undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas, and cyanide, considering how to take control of the weapons in the even of a protracted conflict.

0630 GMT: Syria. Amid Thursday's reports of regime shelling of the Kafarsouseh section of Damascus, a "Special Correspondent" writes for The Washington Post about the tension in the capital:

The city now feels pregnant with rage, and ready to explode.

Anti-regime graffiti are scribbled on the walls in almost every neighborhood. At night, the sound of shelling in nearby suburbs that have fallen under rebel control echoes through the streets, disturbing the sleep of rich and poor alike. Flying — or tayara — protests, in which small groups stage sudden and swift demonstrations, are increasing even in some of the more upmarket neighborhoods of the city. And recent strikes by merchants of the renowned Damascus souks have eroded perceptions that they still support the government....

One reason for the shifting mood is the influx of people who have flooded into Damascus in recent months, seeking refuge from the fighting elsewhere in the country....They have brought with them stories of pain and injustice, infecting Damascenes with some of the anger that has sustained the uprising elsewhere for about 16 months.

0540 GMT: Syria. Friday opens with news, broken and analysed by EA's James Miller overnight, that scores of people --- reports go up to 220 --- have been killed in Tremseh in Hama Province.

The pattern claimed by activists fits that of this spring's mass killings in Houla and al-Qubair. After the town was shelled, pro-regime men stormed it, slaying the residents. Fadi Sameh, who said he left the town before the assault but had been in touch with residents, summarised:

It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Traimseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling.

Every family in the town seems to have members killed. We have names of men, women and children from countless families," he said, adding that many of the bodies were taken to a local mosque.

Abu Mohammad, a resident of a nearby village named Kfar Hod, said he had visited Tremseh afterward and found dozens of bodies in fields, on streets, and in private homes. He said about 50 corpses had been retrieved from the Orontes River adjoining the village.

Abu Mohammad said a convoy of vehicles from Alawite villages had parked outside the village early Thursday, including five trucks filled with soldiers, and began shooting. They were backed by tanks along the village’s eastern edge. Pro-Assad militiamen known as shabiha deployed on the western edge of the village, he said, and “fired at anyone or any car that tried to leave the village".

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