Syria denies use of heavy weapons in Tremseh

Foreign ministry says Kofi Annan statement that government used helicopters and artillery in Hama village is “rushed”.

Syria has denied accusations by special envoy Kofi Annan that state forces used heavy weapons or helicopters in clashes in the village of Tremseh last week, where activists said there was a massacre of over 100 people.

Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for Syria’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters on Sunday that security forces killed 37 fighters and two civilians in a campaign against the village, from which the government said rebels were launching attacks on other areas.

“Government forces did not use planes, or helicopters, or tanks or artillery. The heaviest weapon used was an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade],” Makdissi told the reporters in Damascus.

“Yesterday we received a letter from Mr Kofi Annan addressed to the Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. The least that can be said about this letter about what happened in Tremseh is that it did not rely on facts. As diplomatically as possible, we say that this letter was very rushed.

“The aim of this news conference is to tell people that what happened was not a massacre… It was a clash between regular forces and armed groups who do not believe in a peaceful solution. This is the reality, politically and militarily.”

Makdissi’s comments came as UN Supervision Mission in Syria entered Tremseh for a second day to assess the casualties and damage in the village.

“We are in Tremseh now we entered today at [05:30 GMT]. we are continuing to verify the facts and if we have more we will inform you,” Sausan Ghosheh, UNSMIS Spokeswoman, said on Sunday in Damascus.

UNSMIS published a statement on Saturday in which they confirmed that an attack took place in the village.

‘Pools of blood’

The statement added that heavy weapons were used as well as helicopters.

“We can confirm that there was a military operation on July 12th on Thursday. The attacks appeared targeted towards specific homes of activists as well as army defectors. UN team observed homes which had pools of blood and blood splatters in some of the rooms as well as empty bullet cases. There was a wide range of weapons used including heavy weapons and artillery mortars and small arms,” Ghosheh added.

Spanish photojournalist says he “found obvious use of heavy weapons”

The statement did not identify the perpetrators of Thursday’s attack or estimate the number of dead. Opposition activists have said between 100 and 200 rebels and civilians were killed. 

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Daniel Leal Olivas, a Spanish freelance photojournalist, who visited Tremseh on Saturday said he “found obvious proof of heavy weapons”.

“All the tank tracks were on the ground, very fresh,” he said.

“Everyone was very nervous trying to show us what happened in the town. There were marks of shellings [by] mortars.”

When asked about the government’s claim that opposition fighters used heavy weapons, Olivas said: “The rebels have some tanks but as far as I know they do not have the ability to use them and for sure not to the level that we saw in Tremseh.”

The Tremseh attack has triggered a global outcry against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon calling for “decisive” action to stop the bloodshed.

Another group of UN observers headed to Douma on Sunday in order to hold a humanitarian visit to hospitals and schools and assess the effect of the 16-month crisis in the country.

Activists said that at least nine people were killed on Sunday in new violence across Syria, including two civilians when troops shelled the flashpoint city of Homs as they tried to seize control of several neighbourhoods.

On Saturday a pregnant woman was among 115 people -including 50 civilians- killed across Syria, activists reported.

Meanwhile, the outskirts of the northern commercial hub of Aleppo came under intense bombardment on Saturday, according to an AFP news agency reporter and a rebel official.

In the southern province of Deraa, activists on Saturday said that troops and militias had stormed and torched the southern town of Khirbet Ghazaleh.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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