The Battle for Syria
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|Edward Yeranian||May 26th 2012|
Syrian opposition forces say more than 90 people, many of them children, have been killed in a coordinated assault on a village outside the city of Homs by government artillery and militiamen. Government officials do not deny the massacre but blame unidentified "terrorists" for one of the deadliest incidents since the start of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's administration more than a year ago. As elsewhere in Syria, emotions in the cluster of towns that make up Houla are running high.
Witnesses say the killing began when government forces shelled the village of Teldau soon after Friday prayers. Opposition activists say some of the victims, many of whom are children, were killed in the shelling, while others were shot by pro-government militiamen known as “shabiha.”
A woman resident of Teldau claims on a video distributed by opposition forces that she and her daughters-in-law managed to escape the village after it came under attack from militiamen who destroyed part of her house. But she says several other relatives were slaughtered by security forces dressed in black, who killed them with knives.
A team of U.N. observers arrived in Houla Saturday to investigate the killings. The acting head of the opposition Syrian National Council urged the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency session to discuss the brutality.
Syrian government TV charged that “terrorists” were responsible for the massacre in Houla. The government often refers to rebel soldiers and other opponents as “terrorists,” claiming that they are part of an outside plot to destabilize the country. Thousands of mourners turned out Saturday in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, to protest the killings. Large student protests have roiled the city in recent days, after months of relative quiet compared to the rest of the country.
Edward Yeranian writes for VOA, from where this article is adapted.