Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Syria: Wadi al-Mawla Massacre

June 28, 2015
last edits June 30

SNHR report (review - PDF) includes Homs government-facilitated sectarian massacre #21 of 22: Wadi al-Mawla, a Friday in November (date missing) 2013: government forces shelled the town with tanks and mortars, raided, gathered victims and killed them. SNHR documented 21 dead, incuding 8 children and 7 women, one pregnant.

Location:  Wadi al-Mawla on Wikimpaia, labeled in Russian as Ваади-эль-Мовла. It's right on the Oudeen valley (Lebanon) border - 4.5 km north of Mshierfa (see Mshierfa bus massacre, January 2013)
The VDC  lists 6 victims from Talkalakh: Wadi al-Moula killed by Detention - Execution on Friday, November 15. We'll consider the entries below. This must be the date; a Syrian coalition press release on the 16th calls it a horrible massacre, mainly women and children against one family - holds the international community partly responsible - calls for FSA to protect this and other towns "isolated from the outside world." 

Another opposition account in Arabic was found in a comment beneath this short article, with the apparent original on Facebook, by Mohammed Issa, November 15 (California time):
Homs village of Wadi al-Mawla (the valley of the sire/given)||15/11/2013 
"The massacre started when security broke into the house of Nasser Ahmed Rajab to arrest him and when they broke into the house, he appeared to them, his brother, and they just push him shot immediately and killed him and they killed everyone in the house then they asked of the tanks surrounding the village to the shelling of the village began shelling by tanks والشيلكا guns 23.
And then they killed those listed below, and they arrested all of the remaining sons of Rajab present in the city, and appeared in front of them, not sons of Rajab they (burned?) fields, destroyed and burned all the houses in the village وسرقوها (ou-s-r-q-ou-ha?) and burned the cars and everything that appeared in their way.
The reason for this hatred of the Al-Rajab is they were one of the first who started to peaceful revolutionary movement in the city of tal kalakh واشتهروا (WaM typed wrong?)  in the region of their activity the revolutionary peaceful demonstrations, and made martyrs of the abductees detained in the storming of the first army to the city, dated 16/5/2011
Victim list below. Alleged motive then is to stop peaceful behavior. Possible suspects, if true: an insane regime pushing people into armed rebellion, or armed anti-government factions known to encourage non-peaceful activism. Note it specifies their involvement in opposition activisties in 2011, and doesn't mention anything about 2012 or 2013. Continuing to support the anti-government armed rebellion would be a good theing to mention, but they don't. This suggests the local Rajabs had stopped supporting the rebellion by the time not-rebels killed them - according the rebels. This might be a clue.

Victims, Dead and Missing 
VDC lists 6, 5 men and a boy. Notes: Massacre of civilians, were (field executed) by regime's forces
Naser Ahmed al-Rajeb Detention - Execution 
Samer Ahmed al-Rajeb Field Execution 
Thaer Ahmed al-Rajeb Field Execution 
Hassan Muhmood al-Rajeb   Field Execution 
Khaled Muhmood al-Rajeb  Field Execution 
Ahmad Rajab al-Rajab    Child - Male  Detention - Execution
Implied: 3 brothers whose father is an Ahmed Rajab, two sons of Mahmoud Rajab, and an implied child son of an un-listed Rajab al-Rajab, most likely Rajab Ahmed al-Rajab - so the boy would be a nephew to the three men.

Any more listed under regimes forces? No. Missing? No. If they're missing, VDC isn't looking for them. Women and children numbering 15 in a total of 21 means 6 men. VDC listing 5 and only one boy suggests they mainly listed the men but not the women and children. This could be consistent with just the men actually killed, and usable females and re-claimable children taken - listed as dead and forgotten in some reports.
From photos with VDC entries, left-to-right: 
Hassan Mahmoud Rajab, Thaer Ahmed Rajab, Nasser Ahmed Rajab

From Mohammed Issa's Facebook post:
Final tally was documented with the name of the martyrs are :
(Arabic original list):

ناصر أحمد الرجب
 سامر أحمد الرجب وزوجته وأطفاله 2 بنات
 ثائر أحمد رجب
سليمان رجب ( مات خنقا داخل منزله الذي احترق نتيجة القصف )
حسان محمود الرجب
((سحر رجب وأطفالها 3
أمل رجب واطفالها 3
أماني الرجب حامل بالشهر 6 )) ( ماتوا حرقا )
أم ناصر الرجب أمون السيدو
 عامر علي الكردي ( تلكلخ )
سميح علي حوري
 أم باسل من الرستن واولادها:
ياسمين عظاظة
 سوسن عظاظة
 هشام عظاظة
 خالد نصر الدين الحسين الملقب وريدي ( اعدام ميداني رصاصة في الرأس )
ايمان أحمد رجب مفقودة مع 3 بنات أطفال
 والعدد راجح للزيادة بسبب اعتقال باقي أبناء آل الرجب وغيرهم من أبناء القرية واقتيادهم إلى أماكن مجهولة

Translated/transliterated, with VDC matches noted:
1 Nasser Ahmed Rajab - VDC
2 Samer Ahmed Rajab - VDC
3 his wife and
4 children
5 (2 girls)
6 Thaer Ahmed Ragab - VDC
7 Solomon Rajab (died of asphyxiation inside his house, which burned down as a result of the bombing)
8 Hassan Mahmoud Rajab - VDC
9 Saher Rajab
10 and their children
11 (3)
13 Amal Rajab
14 and her kids
15 (3)
17 Amani Al Ragab (6 months pregnant ) ( burnt to death )
18 Um Nasser Al Ragab Amon Alsido
19 Amer Ali Kurdi (Talkalakh)
20 Semih Ali houry
21 Um Basel of Al-rastan and her children:
( عظاظة = H-za-a-za-h = Hzazah - does not appear in VDC martyrs database)
22 Jasmine Hzazah
23 Sawsan Hzazah
24 Hisham Hzazah
25 Khalid Nasr-el-DIN Hussein, ( وريدي = ou-r-ya-d-ya - VDC does  al-Wraidi here) ( field execution )

Missing, by the same post:
Eman Ahmed ragab missing with 3 kids girls
Number Rajeb (likely to) increase due to the arrest of the rest of the sons of Rajab and others from the village were rounded up and taken to unknown locations

Correlated: The two non-matched VDC entries probably add one victim to the above list. The child Ahmed is probably included among those numbered. adult Khaled Mahmoud, implied brother of Hassan Mahmoud, isn't clearly on that list, so he adds one. Total by that: 26 confirmed dead, including 6 women and 11 children, 12 including one unborn (or less - children don't say kids forever, and ages aren't give - unnamed children may include a few adults), Further, it's said 6+ people were abducted, upper range unknown, including at least one woman and 3 children. These may wind up dead, or suffering fates that are arguably even worse.

However, it's implied these were Sunni Muslims (the crime is "sectarian" per VDC where 98% of killings are by the Alawite regime and Alawite militia allies). If rebels are using the  kill and capture paradigm with fellow Sunnis, it's an extension of their adherence to the "Alawite regime."

Speculation on Solomon and Amani 
(added June 30) Consider these two unique victims listed above:
7 Solomon Rajab (died of asphyxiation inside his house, which burned down as a result of the bombing)
17 Amani Al Ragab (6 months pregnant ) ( burnt to death )

Only these two died in a burning home instead of getting executed. One is an apparently young woman - no other kids listed killed, just pregnant. The other is a man in his house. Chances are it's the same unusual house that wound up burning from the shells, not allowing them to escape. Everyone else was detained and then deliberately executed.

One imaginative possibility is this young man was heavily armed to protect his wife and child. The attackers - rebels I suspect  came in to get them too but he shot at them so heavily they they couldn't come near. So they left that scene and set the house on fire, possibly by or along with some mortar shells. They wouldn't likely know who died of what - burning to death is unusual in a fire, asphyxiation more common. Saying she and baby were burned alive might be an insult to dad's choice to go out that way.

Others, possibly related, November 14
The day before the reported massacre, these 3 died with some possible relation by name or proximity.

101238 Malak Heidr Adult - Female, from Zara, Homs. Died by Shooting Notes "Martyred by Shilka 's gunfire from the checkpoint in the village, called Em Radwan." (photo - head completely gone) Zara is 15 km west of Wadi al-Mwala, across valley, north of Talkalakh.
101092 Nabeil Aref al-Shweti AM civilian, with rifle in military clothes, twice - Talkalakh 11-14 by detention torture martyred under torture in the regime’s prisons, called al-Wazeir
101193 Minhel Abd al-Kafi al-Rajb AM civilian Hula, shelling 11-14 Hula edge of the martyr Abdul-kafi al-Rajab. Active video: left armpit and shoulder torn up (RPG from behind?) lower lip cut down to the chin.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Syria Massacres: Reviewing "The Societys Holocaust"

June 22, 2015
last edits July 3

The Society’s Holocaust
A report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), a UK-based anti-government group, June 16, 2015. Report download page - PDF report direct download link. It's called "the society's holocaust," I guess because it's the world community's fault and responsibility to stop it. Thesis: ISIS ("Daesh"), JaN, and Kurdish militias have committed some sectarian massacres, the government's forces have done more than all those combined by far, killing 98% of massacred civilians, and the moderate FSA rebels have committed zero sectarian massacres.

Dettmer Article
The report was headlined in a June 19 article by Jamie Dettmer (a self-proclaimed Zionist, FWIW), for the Daily Beast: "A Damning Indictment of Syrian President Assad’s Systematic Massacres: A new report sorts through the record of sectarian carnage and leaves little doubt who are the worst offenders." This hails the anti-government group's report capable of leaving "little doubt" of their anti-government narrative.
The report outlines true facts, Dettmer feels, "making a mockery of the Syrian leader’s frequent claim to foreign broadcasters that his soldiers would never harm their own people deliberately as a matter of policy." No, these crimes, authored by whoever, clarify that Assad is just as evil and sectarian as the Sunni insurgents always said. He's been doing this from the beginning, and has the audacity to claim they're the ones doing it, just to make him look bad?
Some errors in Dettmer's report:
* "In fact, three days before Assad sat down with the BBC for an especially chilling interview last February (actually was Feb. 10 this year) and lamented how war, alas, causes casualties, government-aligned militiamen stormed the As-Sabil neighborhood in the Syrian city of Homs and slaughtered three Sunni families, including four children and five women." Actually that was February 7, 2012 - three years and three days before that interview. That one is covered, not proven rebel work but likely.
* The report lists "56 major massacres displaying obvious sectarian or ethnic cleansing traits." Actually it's 59 - 56 sectarian massacres, and 3 ethnic massacres, being (Sunni) Kuds against Sunni Arabs (and not any clear vice-versa cases). 49 of the 59 are attributed - by the info SNHR received from its anti-government contacts and rebel fighters - to government or allied forces. I contest all of these, some with direct evidence-based reasons, others just based (so far) on that pattern.

SNHR Report, General Observations:

* Recommendations (from the final page 33), summarized: Everyone they've blamed should have sanctions placed on them. Iran should be stopped from supporting Syria's government. "All necessary measures" should be taken to implement UNSC resolutions 2042 and 2139. The world should team up to get rid of Assad, and all extremist groups. The UN Security Council should do this. The people of the world should "support the Syrian people," mainly by pushing the UNSC to the above recommendations, and by getting Syria referred to the International Criminal Court.  These are all measures towards the destruction of the Syrian government and a replication of the Libya scenario.

* They're totally incorrect to report as clear fact that the government and its allies are responsible for the first, worst, and most massacres, taking 98% of massacred civilian lives. That's about right by lodged opposition activist reports. But those reports, time and again, pale next to the weight of combined logic and evidence. This is best shown on a case-by-case basis, and will be below, in other posts, wherever there's enough room and whenever there's enough time.

* The report lists massacre 32, At-Trymsa (Hama) 12 July, 2012 - tens killed, 67 civilians confirmed, including 6 children killed and one woman. We'd better hope not.  Rebels announced a one-sided, unprovoked massacre by government forces of over 250 people, mostly men. Government said rebels had massacred some locals, including a woman and her children executed in the city square. They were set to kill more, but the Army arrived and killed over 100 in the following battle, with very few losses of their own. Mainstream reports, even the New York Times, followed closely enough to decide in this case the government story was "closer" to the truth (no one wanted to say it was true) - there was no massacre, just a big battle the rebels lost. (see Wikipedia Battle of Tremseh (changed from massacre) and ACLOS left-ambiguous Tremseh Massacre) To hear SNHR, none of that happened - the 250 rebels just weren't confirmed here, maybe left in that vague "tens" - and they do not say here - as they do in some cases - that the killings "involved only government forces." (meaning, there was some aspect of rebel fighting and dying involved - here, the evidence suggests that was the vast bulk of the dead.)

The battle was clearly the main event, but there was also talk of a massacre, and some clues always said there was, just cut short. Were 67 civilians killed? Might be, worth some review.
* When the report acknowledges a crime by a non-Daesh anti-government group as actually being by them (that is, it became impossible to blame the "regime" - it happens occasionally), it tends to preface it with what the loyalists did to provoke it. All government-supporter massacres were totally unprovoked, to read this report. And that helps clarify the supposed sectarian motive behind each of these crimes.
* Page 32: The SNHR received reports of a Kurdish YPG massacre from Sunni locals, but YPG denied it, saying those locals were known pro-Daesh liars. SNHR had heard this kind of protest many times, published its report blaming the YPG anyway, still includes it here as an "ethnic cleansing massacre." But they note "On the next day, YPG issued a statement accusing SNHR of working to further their supporters' agenda and trying to incite national strife and promoting chaos." Ah, NOW the anti-government Kurds get it - this is what the massacres and the stories told about them were all about from day one!

* "It is clear that the Syrian authority is trying to provoke the other party to commit such crimes in light of the lack of any form of accountability on the International Community's part or the Security Council's willingness to stop these massacres... " (p. 5)

* They use  the term "local militias" "instead of Alawite or Shi'ite" - because "we have no knowledge of its hierarchy and its leaders' sectarian affiliations." Not sure what to make of that. (p. 5)

* They do know 90% of the listed massacres were done with the help of government forces, and of course killed Sunnis, and they know "90% of the security branches and military teams are Alawites." (p. 5)

Special Focus: Aqrab, December 11, 2012
I don't suppose this is the most representative example, but it is a real one. They really put this "massacre" in their report when most now know to simply say "what massacre?"
Government forces' local militias besieged Aqrab village in Hama suburbs. Consequently, the village residents agreed to form a committee in order to negotiate with the militias and end the siege. The local militias killed the members of the delegation which were six civilians according to SNHR. This incident details a pattern of killing based on sectarian backgrounds. SNHR published a statement regarding this incident: "even mediation committees are being killed."
Wow is that missing some parts. The link gives me a chance to check what their supporting info is in this case. That's one of their points - each one is backed up (many are) with detailed investigations. There it says
D When the militias and government forces siege become severer on the people of Aqrab village in Hama countryside, a group of the village young men went to the government forces trying to reach an agreement to end the siege, but the militias surrounding the village arrested the group and executed them in cold blood.
It lists the men, names I recognize: Omar Walid Bakeer, Saeed Hamash, Shaker Akash, Yahia Al Hussein, Ali Al Sarah, Ali Al Omar. The linked full PDF report is the same short thing, with a big logo below. That's literally all they show.

Abdulsalam Daoud, per VDC, killed by regime
shelling or regime sniper, in Aqrab Dec. 3.
His family inside were all killed by shelling.
Okay, so what's missing?  The besieging Alawite militias (unspecified) in a Sunni town is presumably what makes it sectarian to them. Problem is, Aqrab was a half-Alawite town until rebels attacked the (much smaller) Alawite half in the west on December 2, herded 500 captives into a building, whole families, killing some in the process (deaths listed as government shelling - see inset). They exchanged some Alawites with the government for rebel prisoners. It somehow became a standoff, or there was some resistance from the captives, unclear - the besieging Alawite men were inside the house with family, causing some problem. They reportedly had food and water cut off, smoke from burning tires poured into the house, with the deal reported as endure or surrender - men will be executed, women and children will not be killed, but taken back to rebel-held al-Houla. Some were reportedly massacred ahead of time; one smoke-stained girl of about 7 I think was one of these - skull sliced open by a sword, shown on rebel video as a shelling victim in Houla, on December 9.
Then, there was a delegation of local Sunnis - six - sent in on the 10th, apparently to talk the Alawites into accepting the deal. It seems they were then taken hostage by the hostages and eventually killed, probably by them, probably for being part of that sick demand. Next, unclear. Rebels say the Shabiha blew up their family with grenades and either fled or committed suicide. Then the army shelled the house, and the air force bombed it. The admittedly besieging rebels said about 200 remained in the house, only a few lived, and they were helping the survivors in Houla. That was the first-reported Aqrab Massacre. Alawites were expected to rise up against Assad now that he was killing them.
The house Alex Thomson filmed, intact
A couple days later Channel 4's Alex Thomson filmed the house hostages say they were held in - intact but with smoke coming out of some blacked-out windows. People freed in exchanges told their story to him, reporters from al-Mayadeen, and Syrian networks. It's not known if rebels actually killed those people, quietly released them, kept them as slaves, or most likely some combination of these.  But everyone who supported the rebellion tried to just drop that story and move on. (see CIWCL, ACLOS and a rare tweet from Alex Thomson confirming this work "seems to bear out what I reported from Aqrab at the time") Which is:

So kudos to SNHR for bringing it up again, and in such a splendidly twisted manner. They report only the killed delegation, and in the context of a storyline almost completely inverted from reality. This leaves little doubt that, at least in some cases - wow, holy shit are they atrociously unreliable. Rebels killed or enslaved probably over 200 Alawites, used others to get their friends freed, and displaced all 2,000 there were. The few who caused some friction on the way are now attackers, killing anyone who speaks peace. Apologies for the unprofessional language here, but ... holy shit they got this one wrong.
Massacre Coverage, Theirs vs. Ours
The report is password-protected so I can't copy any text from it. So I'll cite sparingly. But for reference, I needed to make this list of the 22 massacres in Homs province they cover, 1,032 victims, to compare with my own research into that area (see Monitor summary post here - overall about 57 events covered, app. 1,400-1,900 dead).

SNHR's 22 massacres in Homs
C=covered (will have a link in time), N = new to me, N = was new, covered now, ? = will need to check (ACLOS page and all of Shoutwiki has been down badly for a few days - some may be covered under another name, etc.). Select notes - doc= documented dead, ch=children, w=women, report title search words (useless, use PDF links)

C Zahraa Dec. 6, 2011 - 19 documented killed, 8 from one family
C Az-Zaitoun, January 26 - local militias raided, killed 2 families 19 doc 6 w 10 ch stab wounds seen (covered as Bahader-Akkra Family Massacre, At least 13-17 civilians executed in Karm al-Zaytoun (KaZ) or Nazeheen)
3 C Sebil 7 Feb 14, 5 women, 4 children report "sectarian-cleansing massacre ... As-Sabil neighborhood"
4 C Ar-Refa'ie Al-Adawiya, and Karm Az-Zaitoun March 9, 11 - 224 dead, 44 children, 48 women
5 C Deir Baalba 2 and 9 April  200 dead, 21 children, 20 women report "Der Ba'lba massacre in April"
6 C first Ash-Shamas, 15 May 11, including imam of a mosque
7 C al-Houla 97 civilians, 10 rebels
N Eastern Buweida Massacre May 31  - 12 dead, workers, fertilizer factory, bus hijacked report "fertilizer factory massacre..."
N Qal't Al-Hesn, June 28 Dr. Ahlam Emad home, 6 doc, 3 w report "...slaughtered in Qal't Al-Hesn"
10 Shammas 2, 11 August 22 civilians, 3 ch 2 w
11 N Tasnien 5-6 Jan 105 dead or missing, bodies in Assi river
12 N Mshierfa 6 January - 11 dead 1 woman, 3 Christians 
13 C Haswiya, 15 Jan - 100 dead, 20 women, 25 children "killing based on sectarian backgrounds" "involved only government forces."
14 C Abel 25 March, 2013 - rebels chase out loyalists, who massacre on the way out - 14 doc 6 w 4 ch
15 C  Burj, Talkalkh 31 March - 10 dead, 2 w 4 ch
16 C Baba Amrou Massacre, March 2013 - No exact date! after opp. withdrew, killed tens, burned home 58 doc, 21 w
17 C Khirbet at-Tin 10 April  10 dead, 7 ch 1 w
18 N Malouk Family 17 May - 2 families, looted, burned bodies, in Wa'er 13 doc, 9 children, 3 women, one man
19 N Haswiya 2 - Al-Mazarea Al-Mohammad At-Tayyar families, mutilated, 18 doc, 9 ch 3 w 
20 As-Sakhna 22 July 18 doc, 2 w
21 N Wadi al-Mawla, a Friday in November - 21 doc, 8 ch 7 w, one pregnant
22 N (last Homs) Ash-Shniya 23 July, 2014 - killed 20 soldiers trying to flee Qabou to Houla, heads tossed in al-Assi village 

So a number of these - at least 8 - are ones I had missed before. And this isn't even all massacres, just sectarian ones, by their definition. My study is even less complete than I thought. I'm looking at Tasnin now, interesting stuff.
After more checking, I eliminated the ? - I had caught 13, with 9 being new. All of those were then covered.

27 in other provinces: Aleppo: 8 - Hama: 7 - Damascus: 5 -  Tartous: 2 - Idlib: 2
Daraa: 2 - Deir Ezzour: 1

Of these, some at least we've covered (using continuous numbering up to 49)
28 Al-Mazr'a 21 June 2013 (near Khnasser, below)
29 Khnaser 22 Feb 2014 (with three other area massacres, app. 104 total reported dead)
31 Qbeir, 6 June - 50 civilians
32 At-Trymsa 12 July - 67 civilians, 6 ch
39 Douma June 2012 (and another Douma massacre in October)
40 Jadedat Al-Fadl 16-23 April, 2013
42 Nabak November 2013 (SNHR says it lasted into late December and claimed the lives of 361 civilians
43 Banyas 2-4 May, 2013 covered as Al-Bayda Massacre and Baniyas Massacre "SNHR documented by name 459 civilian victims, including 92 children and 71 women."
44 Banyas 21 July, 2013 (Fattouh family massacre)

New Massacres, Covered
June 22: Tasnin massacre of Jan 2013. That was pretty quick work. Turns out mostly from rebel sources this was a mixed village with many Alawites and many loyalists that had sat out the revolution, trying to take neither side. The Alawites and loyalists all ran away when the other Alawites ("local militias" - some from Tasnin) and loyalists attacked. That's why they're gone now. The non-loyal Sunnis stayed, and were killed and abducted. By loyalist sources, terrorists attacked, abducted and killed, but were cut short by a swift army response and fled - maybe with captives. Some rebel fighters from Houla and Rastan are listed by opposition sources as massacred along with the locals; VDC lists 4 of these, plus 32 civilians they confirmed as executed - 23 men, 5 women, 2 boys and 2 girls. Is that because useful women and children were kept? That all supports that there was a sectarian aspect like they say. See Aqrab above for that parallel.

June 23: Eastern Buweida, May 31, 2012, covered. This one I was aware of, and I know there's way more info on it around. But this quick start is enough for now...
June 24: Qal't Al-Hesn, June 28 - professor Ahlam and family, and perhaps distant family, covered here. That's 3 of 8 now covered.
June 24: Second Shammas massacre August 11 or actually August 12, 2012 - covered in the same day (quick job though).
June 26: Mshierfa Jan. 6 covered, partly
June 27: Mallouk family May 2013
June 27:  Sukhna, July 2013  
June 28: Wadi al-Mawla Nov. 15, 2013
June 29: Shinya Massacre of July 23, 2014

Some Other Sectarian Massacres SNHR never covered and never will
(list to be filled-in/improved in time)
Tellawi family, April 17, 2011  (Alawi)
Asheera bakery, Jan. 2012 (Christians)
Sultaniya, March (4-8 Melhems killed, likely Alawi)
Houla Massacre, May 25, 2012 (Shia converts, allegedly - app. 85) (see also possible May 22 sectarian bus hijacking link and the next entry)
Shumeriyeh Homa May 25, 2012 - 10 killed (Alawi)
Joseyeh bus attack June 2012 - 9 killed (Alawi)
Jandar resort  (16 Alawi and Christian workers)
Ghassaniya-Haidariya September 30, 2012 (Christians)
Al-Shaddadi Petroluem Company, Hasaka, Feb. 2013 (Shia)
Aqrab  (Alawi, number unknown)
Maan Dec. 24 2012 23 killed (Alawi)
Duvair 40+ minimum (Christians)
Marmarita Aug. 17, 2013 - app. 15 killed(Christians)
Jabourin bus bombing Sept 19, 2013 -19 killed (Alawi)
Khunayfis Hama Nov 2013 (Alawi)
Adra (right after Nabak, ignored - many Christians killed)
Maan Feb 9, 2014  (Alawi)
Zara (near Khalet al-Hosn) Feb. 17, 2014 (Alawi)
Zanuba Hama June 2014  (Alawi)
Ishtabraq Idlib April 2015  (Alawi)
Qalb Lawzah, May 2015 (Druze, but forcibly converted, so arguably not sectarian at all - and this may be a wave of the future - motive elimination)

Note: any number of other massacres may have sectarian aspects and it's just not totally clear. For example one with arguably enough evidence to include is Karm al-Zaytoun, March 2012 (reports say clerics blessed the slaughter, and rebels refer to the victims as "sheep," non-humans, likely not Sunni). Khalidiya the month before has less reliable suggestions of the same (Mother Agnes says the hostages killed were local Christians and Alawi). Other massacres have varying circumstantial indicators.

If the Jabourin bus bombing counts, so would the car bombing of a school in the Homs city Alawite-majority district of Zahra, many shelling attacks on Alawiye villages, Christian districts of Aleppo, the Shiite vilages of Nubol and Zahraa (Aleppo) and things of that sort. So that should probably be stricken from the list. Done.

Syria: Shinya Massacre of Soldiers, July 2014

June 29, 2015

This post covers one last alleged regime-backed sectarian Homs massacre for the SNHR file (see review). This, one of the eight I had missed before but have addressed now, is listed in their June report (PDF) 22nd, in Ash-Shniya village, on 23 July, 2014. Those killed were 20 soldiers (exactly?) of the Syrian Arab Army - apparently Sunni ones - who were "trying to flee Qabou vilage to Homs suburbs -- Al-Houla city [sic]." government forces and "local militias from Ash-Shinya village," who captured the recruits, "slaughtered them and defamed their bodies in brutal ways." Some of their severed  heads were "tossed" in "Al-Assi village," the report adds.

Location:  al-Qabo on Wikimpaia, SW of Taldou, al-Houla - an Alawite village blamedfor the May, 2012 "Houla Massacre" (second in prominence to Fullah - see map) Al-Shinia is a smaller village next to it, just to the north. There doesn't seem to be an Assi village, and river of that name is 20 kilometers east. What this means is unclear. All locations are alleged, as are other details. These crimes may have happened backwards, a day earlier, and across the country, for all we really know. There are some interesting parallels with Daesh advance, early on the 24th - summarily executing dozens of captured soldiers, beheading some and displaying their severed heads - Al-Arabiya report, July 26 - but that was in Raqqah, eastern Syria. The similarities are most likely coincidence, and these are two distinct events.

VDC lists 20 non-civilian martyrs (presumably rebel fighters) nationwide on July 23, with no sign of matches to the SNHR's narrative; one of these died in Jordan from prior wounds, and the rest all over. As it has been in several of the SNHR reports, it's the next day  where we see the VDC matches - but only a few of them. 3 with "defect" in the notes, Martyrdom location Homs: Qabo  Cause of Death Field Execution,Rank Soldier - Notes Slaughtered with knives by Shabbiha forces while trying to defec.
- Khaled al-Sabbagh   from: Damascus  Jobar 
- Oqba Hammo   from: Damascus Suburbs  Douma 
- Adham al-Khodor from:Damascus Suburbs  Dumair 

VDC all non-civilian martyrs that day = 24 from different areas - most killed by shooting. This includes one more match: Gayth al-Omari from Erbeen, Damascus suburbs - Martyrdom location Homs: Qabo
Cause of Death Other  Rank defected soldier Notes "Martyred slaughtered with knives when he tried to split"  (same note used in August in another area, also specifiying "Shabiha.").

So that's four "(almost) defected" soldiers listed, not 20. All these four are from the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, where rebel forces were increasingly chased out. Maybe these are the only 4 listed in connection with that (only their Ghouta-based defection case managers reported their share?) Maybe there only were the four. These 4+ soldiers wound up stationed together in an Alawite village north of Homs, it's implied - or tried to pass too near in their escape from somewhere else nearby. Whenever, they decided together they should defect to the rebel side, but were killed there instead, perhaps with others, by the local militias in that ring of problematic Alawite villages .

Those few military members - almost exclusively Sunni Muslims - who successfully defect to the rebel side are listed as soon as possible by their new affiliation - most commonly the vague "FSA." Those who had just defected but didn't get the training, etc. - or worse yet, those who tried but failed to defect at all - by the VDC notes are quite likely just soldiers who rebels murdered. They use the supposed defection to suggest "it clearly wasn't us."

The implied narrative, in each of hundreds of cases by now; is their own commanders or allies executed the rebellious recruits before they could do anything to prove their intentions to defect. They meant to join rebels, who are usually on an offensive nearby. The bosses then leave the bodies behind, and rebels are  soon in that very spot, finding the bodies and knowing the story, often before the unlucky soldiers are done bleeding.

Clearly, that often-repeated story is open to question, in general and in this case. The Ghouta origins here could suggest a few different things, true or not.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Syria: Sukhna Massacre, July, 2013

June 27, 2015

Yet another alleged Shia-on-Sunni sectarian massacre in Syria's Homs province that the opposition SNHR included in its report I've been shredding lately is As-Sakhna 22 July, 2013. This is one of the eight incidents they covered that I hadn't. It's now the sixth one I'm catching up on. 

Sukhna location: as As-Suhna on Wikimapia: out in the eastern desert, the only city besides Palmyra out there with the oil fields. In the SNHR story, it must have been rebel-held at the time:  army and militias raided the town and clashed with rebels. "The clashes came to an end when the military security building was bombed," it says. Rebels must have been based there and withdrew, or so the story goes. Only then, with no one to stop them, the non-Sunni invaders killed three brothers named  "Merza" and killed another unnamed family in its entirety (apparently 15 victims) for 18 SNHR-documented deaths, including 2 women.

VDC has 9 Sukhna dead for this day: all Civilian, killed 2013-07-22 by "Warplane shelling," not execution.
Yaser Khlaif al-Hjoujeh man      
Hasoun Khlaf al-Basma man
Abo Abd al-Khnaifes man
Hayya Freiha Shoubat woman
Hayya Freiha Shoubat's 1 boy
Hayya Freiha Shoubat's 2 boy
Unidentified 1 man
Unidentified 1 woman
Unidentified 2 woman 
No Marza, just Shoubat - a name shared by prominent Christian activists Theodore and Walid Shoebat, but they're converts, not even from Syria that I know - it should not matter. Name meaning: unknown. 

However the killing continues next day with 19 civilians, including three "Merza" men, more Shoubats, killed partly by shelling from the sky and partly from killers on the ground, with some acknowledged executions. Also one rebel fighter from Sukhna died - somewhere, likely there - during "clashes with regime's army." Yaser Khleif al-Zedan is listed as FSA but might actually be "regime's army" - he shares a family name with 3 executed civilian Zidan/Zedan.

Warplane shelling - 12 men, one woman
Abd al-Hameed Thwaib al-Hamada man
Asad Ahmad al-Azzam man
Qasem Abd al-Qader al-Khateeb"al-Kader"    man 
Ahmad al-Sabha    man
Maejoun Merdah al-Shobat man 
Mayraz Mokhailef al-Shajawi man 
Ammar Mekhlef al-Shajawi man 
Son of Ahmad al-Ani man 
Majed Hameed Marza man 
Amjad Hamid al-Marza man 
Son of Hamid al-Marza man 
Treefeh Mohammad al-Zyab woman
Mokhlef Mizar al-Najm man

Field Execution:   6 men.
Rashid Adel al-Zidan man 
Mohammad Ali a-Zedan man 
Abdul Majeed Abdul Hameed al-Zaher (Marza) man
Mahmoud Ahmad al-Any man
Fahid Adel al-zidan man  
Mohammad Asaad Awad Hamada man

The next day, the 24th, it says one final woman died: Ghadah Asaad Aead al-Himadeh. She died in a bit more "Warplane shelling." Notes: "Martyred With Her Father Due Regime Forces Shelling By Tangs." So total = 29 or 30 to SNHR's 18, over the course of perhaps three days. And the majority of it was done by indiscriminate bombing that killed 16 men, 2 boys, and 5 women, not by the "local militias," who they clearly do feel were there anyway. Those just killed six men.

December Follow-Up Massacre?
This attack in July 2013 may have displaced people. Something caused locals to move south to the Damascus area where some were then killed less than 6 months later, probably by Jabhat al-Nusra and allies, as part of the sprawling Adra massacre of mid-December. This part - in between other sub-massacres of Nabk and Adra that targeted groupings of Homs refugees - I dubbed Sukhna-Adra Massacre at ACLOS. Here's what I wrote about it:
App. December 14, 2013: As documented first here at ACLOS, the VDC at one point listed 14 adult males, 12 unidentified, killed by field execution, with "Martyrdom location: Damascus Suburbs: Adra," Cause of Death: "Field Execution," and notes: "12 martyrs were Field executed by the regime's army forces in one of Adra Prison, and found their drad bodies inWest Adra Industrial." The names and entry numbers were not saved. It was the first and last massacre they mentioned in connection with the alleged Adra massacre of dozens to hundreds in an al-Qaeda assault starting December 11.

34 of the 44 victims the VDC does document in this time, blamed on regime shooting and shelling, 34 are not from Adra, but displaced, from elsewhere in Damascus area and Homs. That basic list - the only executed people in Adra - has been changed now. It's only 11 martyrs long, with most given names, field execution changed to "detention-execution," and the area of origin is filled-in. Consistently, these men were all displaced from "Homs: Sukhna" (making it another of the Homs Massacres) And importantly, the notes have been changed. "Twelve worker were detained at Dumair's checkpoint, and were transported in the middle of the night to Adra in a military truck, then they were thrown at the ground with their hands cuffed then field executed with a machine gun, one of them was found alive and sent to a field hospital." The miracle survivor is probably how they will claim they got the improved story, but the delay is strange. Perhaps they think the bodies were dumped in rebel-infested Adra, to make it appear the terrorists were responsible. The original version had a video of someone explaining what happened (not saved). That's no longer attached - perhaps his version was different from the survivor's. That story is not explained in any detail or with any video.

Bringing it back to this case - these may well be even the same sector of Sukhna's people killed in June and December; the name Shbat (Shoubat), Shajawi and "unidentified" appear on both lists. And actually one of the December videos of victims covered in snow shows one man has missing lips and nose, another a missing face, throat, and upper chest. That's not even the work of Daesh, but of feral dogs. It means that's one massacre rebels didn't find suspiciously quick - they got the timing about right.

Syria: Mallouk Family Massacre, May 2013

June 27, 2015

SNHR's massacre report (review page with links) lists a Mallouk Family massacre on 17 May, with "killing based on sectarian background," and pro-government Shia-type perpetrators, as usual in their findings. By this, two families were hit, 13 documented dead, including 9 children, 3 women, one man - executed with knives. The killers  robbed/looted, and burned the bodies. The victims were from the Waar (or Wa'er) district of Homs city, set apart to the west by the green belt along the al-Assi river. It remained a rebel hotbed into 2015 even after the Old City was cleared of rebel fighters.

For May 17, 2013 the VDC lists 7 names from Waar noted as "Seven Martyrs due to regime`s shelling on the neighborhood." These aren't massacre victims, they say, but include 6 men and a boy, two from a Shahoud family (see Khunayfis Massacre), 3 named Baki, an al-Din and an unidentified. There is no one named Mallouk, but these deaths are suspect, likely part of any massacre.

Then the next day, May 18 ... they have a Mohammad Ali Mallouk from Waar killed "by regime's army and Shabiha and they buried his body." And they have 8 victims named Mallok from Waar. This is what the SNHR was talking about, in part. All civilian, from Waar, killed May 18 by " Field Execution." Notes: "More than ten martyrs slaughtered with knives and then their bodies were burned."
Abeer mallok    woman age 35, married
Abdul Rahman mallok boy age 11, unmarried
Amal mallok    girl age 17
Ahmad mallok  boy age 15
Abdullah mallok   boy age 11, unmarried
Marwan mallok  man age 50
Thrwat mallok  manage 42, married
Zeina mallok  woman, age 18, married

So there are the 9 Mallouk family members, and the 4 likely related, to the SNHR's 13 total. Let's also say 13 total, and those 13, (listed as) killed over two days. Rebels knew where in the woods to find the bodies and were filming them on the 18th - so perhaps to be fair that should be taken as discovery date, not death date per VDC. Still, rebels quite likely knew where they were, because they had burned them there, after murdering them, for whatever unclear reason.

Videos of the victims bear out the description - mostly unrecognizable, sanitized, safe for Youtube human charcoal. One exception at least with some skin left better captures the essence of this horrible crime. All these are still available, short (0:06-0:33), dated and uploaded May 18

* v=EUYQfVM5QyE 0:33
* v=acrOpcSzXmg 0:33
* v=zfes7thWOzU 0:12
* v=RBUtGBbxkaY 0:06
* v=HadoKoP-HUA 0:15 Homs forest, some of the bodies that Hrguetha Shabiha have not been identified (inset still is from this one)

Also in the VDC's records (see above) 4 Waar rebels are listed killed May 18 by shelling, one by shooting - perhaps when the authorities responded to calls of a terrorist massacre in progress. The army probably moved in ... and maybe that's why the VDC really means the killings didn't happen 'til the 18th. But then, it heightens the incongruity of rebels finding the bodies just laying there the same day, in full daylight, either mid-morning or early afternoon it seems from the sunlight.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Syria: Mshierfa Bus Massacre

June 26, 2015

SNHR massacres report, Homs Massacre 12 is: Mshierfa 6 January, 2013. "Government forces, reinforced by local militias, stopped a number of travelers on Homs-Lebanon road before they tortured them and slaughtered them with knives. SNHR documented the killing of 11 victims including three Christians. Also, among the victims was a woman." 
Mshierfa must be El Mochayrfeh (as it's given on Wikimpaia) at the border west of Homs. The time frame is concurrent with the massacre and assault on Tasnin, Homs, January 5 and 6. The day's dead at VDC show a lot of people from there dying, and likely some were fleeing as well. But these 11 are unrelated, from other areas of Hama and Homs, the entries say. The VDC apparently only got 8 of the 11  documented and say there were 12 - those say Martyrdom location Homs: Mesherfeih, and by kidnapping-execution. They share the long note:
... a massacre committed by shabiha at Mashrafa checkpoint, which is in the western suburbs of Homs. It was against 12 passengers on a bus that was heading from Hama to Lebanon. Communication with them was lost on 06-01-2013 and then on 08-01-2013, their families were told to receive their bodies from Homs Military Hospital. Most of the bodies were slaughtered with knives and mutilated.
There are two women listed, but one has a man's name. Maher Sameer al-Naser, adult female, had this added: "Martyred with his Mother and Father ... He was traveling to Lebanon for therapeutic purposes was stabbed several stab wounds before his death. Christian." So the three Christians were from Hama's Madina district, it says here, and his mother (must be Reem al-Basha) is the woman victim. Three others are from the northwest district/suburb of Kazow (Kazou on Wikimapia) and one from Fraya, Hama (perhaps meaning Kafr Aya in Homs, dues east of this crossing) - another is from Homs, unspecified.

So, a bus is stopped - 11 passengers of a total probably higher than that are singled out to die. Three are Christians, in a fluke. Population proportion-wise, who could the other 8? Maybe a stray Ismaeli was on there or something as well, but the other 7 were probably Alawi. Some passengers may have been trying to flee to Lebanon to avoid the rebels. That sometimes backfires, draws you to their attention, and it does so by the busload. 
(more forthcoming)

Syria: the Zanuba Massacre and the Harbinafsah Laundering Center?

June 26, 2015
last edits June 30

This incident is one of the many sectarian massacres in Syria that the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) managed to overlook in its recent report on just this kind of thing in Syria's ongoing conflict. See my ongoing review of the report here. It involves killing Alawi (Alawites) and helps flesh-out a fascinating pattern of deception regarding that ongoing, little-noted genocide.

A Multi-Generational Massacre
In early June, Fars News and RT reported on an reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (via AFP as usual) of a massacre in an Alawite town - or of Alawites anyway - in Hama province. The SOHR also reported the news story citing them here on their own website.

By this SOHR telling, only five people were killed, but they represented four generations - a 102-year-old man, his son, his grandson, the grandson's wife and their daughter. "The family was from the minority Alawite group – an offshoot of Shia Islam, to which Syrian President Bashar Assad belongs," AFP reported. "Some members of the family were burned alive, others killed in their sleep," the Observatory told them.
As far as I know, this is not a crime where "both sides blame each other." Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh was blamed for launching the attack on the village of Zanuba. No one has openly contested that, tried to blame anyone else, or really mentioned it at all.

The exact date isn't given in these reports of June 2, but odds are it was before that, and most likely only a day or so before.

Location: on Wikimapia 53km west of Hama, near Salamiya. Note as the map shows that it's right by Mahbouja, an Ismaeli (Shia) town that was the site of a March 2015 Daesh massacre of 60+ civilians (dedicated spot forthcoming) - and also near Khunayfis, site of a November, 2014 massacre of 8 (see ACLOS: Khunayfis Massacre). That was reportedly also by Daesh, but possibly with shelling assistance from the Ahfaad AlRasool brigade of the FSA. The latter case will come up again. The whole area is worth this larger reference map.
(error: Zantuba instead of Zanuba)

The opposition VDC lists for June 1 (but not June 2 or any preceding day) 4 martyrs from two families who might well fit, despite some obvious issues. If they don't fit, it means this massacre was not recorded there at all. This has happened before, but it would be the first of these three area crimes they failed to get some version of. I suspect this is, or represents, them:

From somewhere in Hama they call Harbenosh, came four male victims of "Detention - Execution." The notes say for each: "Was executed after being arrested by regime forces, date of death unknown accurately "
* Majed al-Mesheal Civilian Adult - Male
*  Bilal al-Mesheal Civilian Child - Male
* Alae al-Shami Civilian Adult - Male
* Talal al-Shami Civilian Adult - Male 

The number of dead is different, but thats a small issue; sometimes they just miss an alleged victim or two, or maybe the other source is wrong. By the SOHR report, these should all have a single last name. There would be 5 victims, including a woman of childbearing years (who would probably have her father's or "maiden" name). Her absence from  the dead list might make sense, however. The child should be a girl, not a boy. The unclear location is covered below, and it may explain why even names and gender may be intentionally incorrect, and why these may well be the Zanuba massacre victims.

Harbinafsah, Where Daesh Washes its Hands of Alawite Blood?
"Harbenosh" is a very unusual place name. That spelling did nothing, and the Arabic : حربنفسه took to me to only one place I've run into before - transliterated Harbinafsah. It's here on Wikimpaia, on the north shore of lake Rastan, just west of Rastan (labeled in red on the map above). The name meaning is unclear; an image search shows horses, and Google translate gives "free himself" or "war himself" depending where you insert a space in the middle. As explained with the Khunayfis massacre 34 km east of there (see talk page) the Alawite victims from eastern Hama were probably laundered in Harbinafsah as killed by regime shelling, and implicitly Sunni.
The SOHR had reported on November 8 eight Alawi civilians were killed at their orchards in Khunayfis - four children, and four adults (2 men and 2 women) with no names given. Of course that doesn't appear in general rebel reports, but the VDC happened to list 8 linked shelling victims - 4 young kids and 4 adults (but here 3 men and a woman). They gave three names: all men shared one name Shahoud (or might - one seems truncated), the woman another (al-Ezzo - "maiden names" are usual for wives) and the children are all from a Bakour family.

At the time, I was not convinced by these slight differences; the names were all suspect. What helped solidify that impression was how all the child victims rebels showed on video - three of the four (two shown at right) - have the unusual trait of invisible faces, all wrapped completely with heavy gauze. The top frame shows a boy who was shown alive, conscious and fussy with his head wrapped. They say he died later that day. In the bottom frame, a dead girl - the gauze is pink in spots, either from the massive head wounds below, or from some dye. It doesn't seem their heads are really crushed - it seems instead the local rebels were looking for an excuse to show dead kids but not their recognizable faces - probably because these were laundered victims with altered IDs, and they were hauled over from Khunayfis. No adults were shown.
So it seemed possibly to be a local center for processing Alawites from Alawite towns they want to avoid mentioning. Especially after SOHR already did. The best option would be to just not list the victims, or alter every details, including the dates and numbers. But it doesn't seem they took the safest route here.

That entire impression is now strengthened by this other case where Harbinafsah victims almost match Alawite victims from the east. Note also on the map how far west it is (in red, lower left) - not the closest spot to these eastern villages, but centrally located to handle both them and other Alawite towns around Aqrab to its west.
Similarities between Khunayfis and Zanuba: Daesh commits the killings, not even JaN - small massacre, Alawi victims -  in both cases, the SOHR reported the crime - this apparent laundering through other channels as confirmation:  same alleged origin town, slightly randomized family dynamics, no faces shown.

Differences: no videos of the dead this time - instead of shelling it's called deliberate murder, just with a date they don't know, because they didn't do it - the "regime" is still being blamed for a more deliberately kind of killing, in an unclear location - considering rebels seem to have been running Harbinafsah. rebels have general access to Harbinafsah. But they knew about and reported it on June 1, apparently. And the crime it's so similar to in size and time is reportedly again a Daesh crime against Alawi, perhaps being altered with the help of someone in that town, or using its name anyway.

More Examples?
In fact, I checked the Arabic town name - حربنفسه - in the VDC to see who else from Harbinafsah has died : they list 68 total (Arabic), including rebel fighters. In more than 4 years that's a very small number, even for a smaller town like this. (pop. 52,563 in 2004 per Arabic wikipedia article) These seem to come in little groups worth considering: the two dates we've just considered, with 8 and 4-5 killed seem representative: 9 victims at once April 9, 2013 - January 3 (3 dead) - August 3-August 7, 2012 (9 dead) - March 4, 2012  (6 dead, in Englsih) and no one from there died prior to that.
That first incident's 6 victims have the note "He was martyred along with 13 others after the shuttle he was taking to his work at the Compost Factory in Tal Al-Shoor was targeted by Assad's thugs from the Alameen Town." (I can't find al-Amin, but there's a Mneen along the long implied route) The other 7 either weren't killed, were from other towns (other sects?) and were seemingly not listed: the note comes with only these 6 (Alawites?), and no other day's victim seems to have any similar note tying them to this incident. The factory sounds like the same one 12-13 workers were killed bussing from on May 31 (compost/manure/fertilizer, with Qattina and Tal al-Shor being towns right by). But this is a separate incident weeks earlier! And Harbinafsah is not close - 32 km north. But like with other places about 30 km distant, it hosted the victims' provided, and suspect, identity! How many other bad days in there share these traits?  

Mahbouja Massacre Laundering?
The Mahbouja massacre - 4 times the size of these massacres combined, and with a different religious group - for some reasons(s) does not seem to have been handled the same way. It was however somewhat obscured in the VDC's database by being included under "regime forces" - see 63 regime forces, rank: civilian killed in this massacre, listed as from the place everyone else, including mainly SOHR again, reported the massacre happening. Being listed like this by the VDC is fairly common for people who were probably killed by forces on the rebel side(s).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Syria: Joseyeh Bus Massacre, June 2012

June 25, 2015

This is the little-studied story of , allegedly, foreign-backed terrorists in Syria abducting passengers of a bus in 2012, singling out the Alawi (Alawite) passengers, and in nine cases at least, cutting their heads off. That's a pretty brazen sectarian massacre of the kind a human rights group might want to include in a report on sectarian massacre in Syria. ...

Terrorists-Did-It Story
Syria News video, June 12, 2012: at 4:36 the announcer explains:
"An armed terrorist group has kidnapped the passengers of two busses on the (Saleheya?)-Joseyeh customs road in Homs suburbs. A source (and?) the governor has said the group intercepted the two busses at Saleheya village cross point, forcing the passengers out and kidnapping them, and kidnapping them to the direction of al-Joseyeh village."
Joseyeh must be the place given as Jusiyah on Wikimapia - right at the Lebanon border, south of Qusayr. Saleheya must be Salehia as given - 18 km north of the checkpoint, with Qusayr in-between  - it would be a long way to get them all the way to Joseyeh - but they were taken south. No number is given. If there are any later reports about their fate, I haven't seen it yet.
Next, consider what might be the same story, as related to German journalist Alfred Hackensberger. This is widely passed on in an a July 25 article by John Rosenthal in this way:  
A Homs Sunni resident told Hackensberger he witnessed armed insurgents stopping a bus. “The passengers were divided into two groups: on one side, Sunnis; on the other, Alawis.” Nine Alawis were decapitated.
A moderately useful, widely-seen PDF by a sort-of anti-Islam group lists this massacre as: July 25, 2012 "news breaks of" a case they didn't have a date for and were citing Rosenthal for. I dug a bit for what he cited. Here I found it at Hackensberger's site, dated July 2. In German, obviously. My adjusted auto-translation:
A Sunni witness from Homs observed how an armed group of Masked men stopped a bus. "The passengers were split into two groups by religion; on one side Sunni and on the other side Alawis." Then we have the nine Alawite's head cut off - a death ritual  which is normally only carried out by extremist Islamists. It could be this cruelty that increasingly characterizes the approach of the rebels elsewhere. This could also be what happened in Hula.
The date still isn't clear other than prior to July 2, and maybe recent. "A bus," not two, is cited. This account conjures picture of passengers lined up right outside the singular bus, while the state TV report said the kidnapped passengers were taken away.
Is this a Sunni survivor? Did he report the beheadings? Or is this from elsewhere? It's not made clear. One would expect rebels would spare the Sunnis and not care if they told anyone, but keep the beheading to a more secluded spot and not push their luck doing it in front of everyone. It would come out like the June 12 report - some were taken away, others perhaps were spared and ran to tell the news.
So, putting aside the possible discrepancies, none of them major, here's a composite story that might tie this all together: The passengers were taken near or even at the checkpoint at Salehia, taken south and then beheaded. The witness didn't see that part, but Hackensberg knew about it, and the it seemed to line up. He seems like a smart guy, and it most likely does line up. 

A Pattern of Bus Massacres That Month
This incident come 12 days after and 25 km south of another allegedly checkpoint-related bus massacre - of 12 workers from a state-run fertilizer plant, also including three apparent relatives, on May 31. It also happened about two weeks before another possible bus massacre rebels were on hand to document as "shelling" - June 29, second half of the Qalat al-Hosn massacre(s). Recently to me, there was also the more telling bus "shelling" attached to the August 2012 alleged Shammas Massacre.
Isn't it interesting how the regime decided to carry out all this mayhem in the same areas rebels were able to get to cameras right afterwards? Why are they always so crazy brutal - and careless about evidence clean-up - when rebels are also so near? Is that growing question why only the first one of these four mentioned events was ever reported by rebels as a bus massacre? 

Opposition Story
It doesn't seem there really is one, at least nothing clear and high-profile, like you'd expect if regime forces just massacred some bus passengers. I haven't dug enough to be very clear on this - maybe they weren't suspiciously quiet about it.

Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria (or VDC) martyrs database lists 6 checkpoint-related deaths in the span 10-14 June. This span is all very interesting, but the the date we're considering is likely the 12th, and that day has the most dead - 3 adult males, all named Mattar. (I also checked all 21 Homs deaths on the 12th, but these were the only immediately evident matches) This may be the closest they get to confirming this story of nine murders, and it might be at least one-third confirmed, which is more than you'd expect.
The three are: Ahmad Khalil Mattar Ibrahim Khalil Mattar and Ali Mattar, all civilian, from Qos/Qusair, and killed by "Detention - Execution." Notes for each explains "He was executed at the Rablah checkpoint." Rablah is on the map here - in fact the last town headed south to Joseyeh before you get there. By this, the June 12 victims were traveling safely in some vehicle until a checkpoint (unclear) right around the area state media said the June 12 captives were taken towards.

The following day, a man named Ahmad al-Hasan with "special needs" from Deir Baalba also died from "detention-torture." As the notes say, he was "Martyred from torture after he was arrested from checkpoint." It's not clear which one - this is a ways south of his home. But it's close to these others, and the four stand out, with no such deaths listed in the days before or after.
Checkpoint Military Deaths
Two days before the incident, on June 10, two Qusayr rebels were listed killed in attack(s) on one or two checkpoints in the area (same list of 6 above): martyr 18449  Aala Idris Cause of Death Shelling Rank Battalion Baraa Notes In raiding Masraf checkpoint.  Martyr 18601 Mahmoud Mostafa Ammar Cause of Death Shelling Rank Battalion Wadi Notes During the raiding of Baladia checkpoint. I had no luck finding either checkpoint - they're probably one and the same - Qusayr-area rebels probably wouldn't launch any more than one serious (deadly) "raid" on a checkpoint in a single day. 
The VDC's regime forces list ("other statistics") for the same June 10 lists 7 military men killed with martyrdom location Homs specified. One has Martyrdom location Homs: Qusair Cause of Death Explosion.  Rank Soldier Notes killed with car bomb. News Article  (available - auto-translated)killed in explosion (?by?) bus in Qusayr. Car or bus bombs pass through and are used against checkpoint, but not for simple "raids." Another possible match  gives Martyrdom location Homs : Domaine which could be Daminah ash Sharqiyah or Daminah al Gharbiyah, just on either side of any Salehia checkpoint. Or it's a better linguisitc fit with  Ad Dumaynah, a small town some distance away on the Homs/Hama border). Cause of Death Shooting  Rank Soldier  News Article  (same source, Dam Press, didn't add anything here).
Both of these are consistent with a rebel assault on forces in the same area, perhaps using a suicide car bomber (killed by "shelling") to take it over. For example. Why a bus would just drive through that two days later makes little sense. Maybe they just let the government re-take the checkpoint to let their guard down up the road, where they just ambushed the bus with an RPG from the same side-road they took the people away down (probably the one marked in orange above).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Syria: Second Shammas Massacre

June 24, 2015

Another Homs-area massacre with a "sectarian background" aspect per the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) that was new to me is the second Shammas massacre of 11 August, 2012. This is a southern district of Homs city that saw an especially gruesome Islamist-style massacre of fighting-age men on May 15 (ACLOS section). Here 4 months later, SNHR has 22 documented civilian deaths, including 7 children and 3 women. The district was  bombed for hours, they say, before militias gathered locals, beat them with electrical wires, and then  shot them dead. No background report is mentioned.
22km south and 4 days earlier was the Jandar Resort massacre we (ACLOS) but not SNHR covered.
16 workers killed in a brazen rebel attack near an army base, including Christians and perhaps Alawites. It's not in their report. But this one with only Sunnis implicitly killed is, and I'm just now looking at it...

Date Confusion: Aug. 11 and/or Aug. 12?
Aug 11 VDC Homs = 22 martyrs total - no field execution, many shelling and shooting deaths in areas in the south of and to the south of the city, a few rebels killed, some children.  All Shammas specified victims = 7 - 3 men named Zaqrit, 2 unidentified men, 2 other men. 2 have the note "When the regime's army stormed the area" others "martyred by the regime's army" or no notes.  One f the 7 with no notes is Mohammad Qasem Hseki, non-civilian, FSA, killed by shooting. He's not specified as killed in Shammas, just from there - it might be a coincidence (see below).
Wikipedia's Siege of Homs article is helpful here. It says
"On 12 August, the military launched an incursion into the al-Shamas neighborhood and detained 350 people, mostly young men of military age. 10 of those detained were reportedly executed with the fate of the other 340 unknown.[229][230] The opposition SNC claimed the executed men were civilians, while the activist group SOHR confirmed that people were detained but made no mention of executions.[231] ... After the operation, a Brigadier General defected, stating that the Shamas neighbourhood had no FSA elements and that the Shabiha were led by Iranian military advisors during the operation. [232] The Syrian newspaper Watan, reported that 40 rebels were killed and 70 captured during operations in al-Shamas.[233] " (citing: Al-Arabiya - Al-Jazeera - AFP - Al-Arabiya)

It sounds like both sides agree some number were arrested in an army raid into the district that was on August 12. Were hundreds also abducted? Logic would say by the army if so; terrorists may take retaliatory hostages but not with most effect at that time. Was there abduction and massacre the day before the army raid, as SNHR reports, saying it was the day of the raid?

Back to the VDC - who agreed there was some storming in Shammas the 11th that wasn't there the 10th - Aug 12 = 19 civilian martyrs 9 men 5 boys 3 women, 2 girls - duplicate names are Zaqrit, Hazuri, Azo, Shami, all by shooting. Two Kurdis killed by shelling. This seems to be consistent then. Analysis later.

The second al-Arabiya report, from August, cites "defected Brigadier General Ibrahim al-Jabawi," who "said Shamas did not have elements from the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA), but it had people who fled other besieged areas in the central flashpoint city," noting a reason why: "Criticism is increasing against the FSA for hiding in civilian areas." Jabawi also blamed Iranian officers for heading the Shabiha operation, and showed his detailed knowledge by saying that "10 civilian men were executed and 350 others were detained," which is slightly different from the SNC claim of 350 total.
Jablawi claims no FSA presence, but the VDC lists one FSA fatality of the 11th - same time "When the regime's army stormed the area" a bit earlier than most heard. Mohammad Qasem Hseki, non-civilian, FSA. He's not specified as killed in Shammas, just from there. Might be a coincidence.

Problems with Concurrent Bus Attack
Wikipedia's Siege of Homs article also mentioned:
"Three children on a minibus were killed as they tried to flee with their parents from the Shamas district during the military operation...."
Killed when the bus was shelled? When it was pulled over and raided? I can find this match to say 2 children, or 3 depending how you look at it:
- Qamar Arnus  Civilian  Child - Female  Homs  Qusair  2012-08-11  Shelling  age 9 mother Zainab Ammar
- Mohammad Abdulmuti Arnus  Civilian  Adult - Male  Homs  Qusair  2012-08-11  Shelling
Mother's Name Zainab Ammar. married. Was martyred with his mother
- Zainab Ammar  Civilian  Adult - Female  Homs  Qusair  2012-08-11  Shelling  Was martyred with her two children
- Mustafa Assaf  Civilian  Child - Male  Homs  Ghanto  2012-08-11  Shelling  (seemingly unrelated, has video - teen-aged, intact)

Now, how many people would be on a minibus? There would be at least a driver besides this family. Most likely, a few others. When people flee violence, which was reported, busses tend to get full, in fact. So, why when a shell hits the bus, do exactly these 3 related people completely die from it, one other kid, and no one else?
And then, what kind of shells were these? The VDC, sometimes quite helpful like this, provides a photo for adult son Mohammed. Something hit him in both eyes, it seems - they're blackened and the left one is puffed-up. He's had his mouth smashed, teeth knocked out, either by some flying debris or maybe a rifle butt.  The red patches on his forehead are probably just blood, but the one we can see better could be where he was again with a rifle butt-shaped object. Then finally, something went through his brain, making that blood come out his right ear. Was he shot, or is all this down to random shelling effects?
And then of course rebels arrived later to take this picture and document the "shelling" deaths.