1930 GMT: Even Government Sources Admit Baniyas is Different.
The Baniyas massacre on Syria's coast may be a singular event that stands out as being dramatically different than all the other massacres. For starters, the scale of the massacre is at least among the worst of all of Syria's massacres, though some reports suggest that it may be magnitudes worse than any event that has taken place since the start of this crisis. Also, this incident had a clearly sectarian nature to it that is not disputed - Alawite militias loyal to President Assad targeted Sunnis, many of them children, and killed them en masse. In a thorough, nuanced, and eloquent description of the massacre, the New York Times' Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada point out that the Assad government typically blames civilian deaths on "terrorists" even when their own forces and loyalists are implicated. This time, however, even the government admitted that its people were responsible for a mass killing, though they tell a different tale than Baniyas's residents:
Multiple video images that residents said they had recorded in Bayda and Ras al-Nabeh — of small children lying where they died, some embracing one another or their parents — were so searing that even some government supporters rejected Syrian television’s official version of events, that the army had “crushed a number of terrorists.”
One prominent pro-government writer, Bassam al-Qadi, took the unusual, risky step of publicly blaming loyalist gunmen for the killings and accusing the government of “turning a blind eye to criminals and murderers in the name of ‘defending the homeland.’ “
The article chronicles some of the evidence and eyewitness reports. It also argues that there were those who were trying to break with the sectarian nature of the killings even while the violence was ongoing. In the end, however, it's a must-read article on a story that has been under-reported.