UK & World News
Syrian Forces 'Kill 200' In Village Assault
More than 200 people have been killed after Syrian government forces attacked a village in the province of Hama, opposition activists say.
Tremseh was first shelled by Syrian troops and then stormed by the Shabiha pro-government militia, activists quoted local residents and witnesses as saying.
The Revolution Leadership Council of Hama told Reuters news agency that most of the dead were civilians.
While no definite confirmation was possible, the head of the UN observer mission to Syria, Major General Robert Mood, did say Syrian government forces were in the area at the time.
He also said observers were ready to go in and "seek verification of facts" if and when there was a credible ceasefire.
If the death toll is confirmed, it would be the worst single incident of violence in 16 months of conflict.
UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights chief Rami Abdel Rahman said: "Government troops bombarded the village using tanks and helicopters."
Mr Rahman told news agency AFP by telephone that the bodies of 30 villagers had already been identified following the sustained attack.
Some victims died in the shelling while others were executed later, according to the activists.
Hama resident Rami Abo Adnan told Sky News: "Most of them were slaughtered by knife, including women and children. Burning bodies were found."
A Hama-based activist who identified himself as Abu Ghazi told AFP via Skype that regime troops started shelling the village at around 6am.
"That was followed by clashes with the Free Syrian Army, but the FSA does not have a big presence in Tremseh and could not fight long," said the activist.
"The number of martyrs is very high partly because the army shelled a mosque where scores of people had taken shelter, to treat the wounded and hide from the bombs," Abu Ghazi added.
"But it is obvious that the regime knows no limits. The mosque was shelled, it collapsed, and that killed the people in it."
The village, which had a population of 7,000, he said, "is empty now. Everyone is dead or has run away".
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Tremseh, said he had left the town before the reported killing spree but was in touch with residents.
He said: "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Tremseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people.
"Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling. Every family in the town seems to have members killed. We have names of men, women and children from countless families."
Ahmed, another local activist, told Reuters: "So far, we have 20 victims recorded with names and 60 bodies at a mosque.
"There are more bodies in the fields, bodies in the rivers and in houses... People were trying to flee from the time the shelling started and whole families were killed trying to escape."
It is impossible to independently verify the death toll as the movement of journalists is restricted in Syria.
Details of the alleged massacre emerged as Russia refused to support the threat of further sanctions against Syria.
Britain, the United States, France and Germany have proposed a UN Security Council resolution that would give President Bashar al Assad a 10-day deadline to halt military actions otherwise he would face penalties under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
"We are definitely against Chapter VII. Anything can be negotiated but we do not negotiate this. This is a red line," Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN Igor Pankin told reporters after the Security Council talks.
The 15-member council must decide the future of the UN monitoring mission to Syria, known as Unsmis, before July 20, when its 90-day mandate expires.
Russia has proposed extending the mission for 90 days, but western nations have suggested just 45 days.