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Massacre of Christian village in Syria; almost 40 people killed

Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Syria

A Christian village in Syria was savagely attacked and almost 40 of its residents, including women and children, killed by opposition fighters, as UN investigators warned of increasing radicalisation among the rebels.

UN: "Very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels"
UN: “Very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels”
CC BY 2.0 / Freedom House

The village of Dweir on the outskirts of Homs, near the border with Lebanon, was invaded on 27 May.

One of our Syrian partners told us that two of his relatives in Dweir were severely tortured by the rebels, who broke some of their bones and started to burn their bodies before shooting them in the head.   

The villagers who managed to escape the onslaught fled to Raman district, where Barnabas Aid is providing them with aid.

Following the massacre, the Syrian army entered the village and heavy clashes with the rebel fighters ensued.

The following day, independent United Nations investigators warned that the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad is becoming increasingly radicalised and that the civil war is producing ever worse atrocities.

Paulo Pinheiro, who leads a team of 24 experts that have been documenting crimes committed during the conflict, said:

It was said the rebels were angels, but there is only a minority of fighters with a democratic history who believe in the Syrian mosaic and want a state for all. The majority of rebels are very far from having democratic thoughts and have other aspirations.

Barnabas Aid has been warning for some time about the Islamist agenda of an increasingly dominant section of the opposition.

In April, the Iraqi wing of al-Qaeda confirmed that it has links with the al-Nusra Front, which has become a leading rebel band, while al-Nusra’s leader pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda frontman Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Despite these alarming developments, Western powers have been increasing their support for the opposition. They have been providing non-lethal aid for some time, but are now moving towards supplying arms to the rebels.

Britain and France pushed the EU to lift its arms embargo with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague insisting that there would be “safeguards” to ensure that weapons “would only be supplied to the Syrian National Coalition for the protection of civilians”.

Last month, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a measure that, if backed by the House, would lead to the arming of the Syrian opposition with heavy weapons.

Senator John McCain has been one of the leading voices calling for the US to arm the rebels. He said on Friday (31 May), following a visit to the war-ravaged country, that he was "confident that they could get the weapons into the right hands”.

While not commenting on the position of Western governments, Mr Pinherio of the UN suggested that the matter was not so straightforward:

There is a very complicated distinction between the bad and the good rebels.

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