10 Jun 2012

Evidence of human remains in massacre village

2:02 pm on 10 June 2012

A BBC reporter says he has seen evidence of human remains and attempts at a cover-up in the Syria village of Qubeir where up to 78 people are thought to have been massacred.

Paul Danahar, who was travelling with United Nations monitors, found buildings gutted and burnt in the deserted, tiny village near the western city of Hama.

He says there were no signs of bodies in the village but it was evident civilians and homes had been targeted.

The UN observers had been trying to reach the village of about 150 people for more than a day, but were fired on and turned back by security forces and residents.

The UN has 297 observers in Syria to monitor a ceasefire between government forces and rebels that took effect on 12 April.

Militiamen known as shabiha are accused of the killings at Qubeir. They are mainly from the Alawite community of President Bashar al-Assad.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says 1.5 million people in Syria need relief aid because of the conflict. That is half a million more than the UN's estimate.

The IRC says civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict.

Overnight shelling

Seventeen people were killed on Saturday by shelling in the southern Syrian town of Deraa, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 15 months ago, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The group, which monitors violence in Syria through a network of sources inside the country, reported fighting in the town between the army and rebels after the shelling.

It said 10 women were among the dead.

In the capital Damascus, was once relatively secure from the unrest, the group said explosions were heard overnight after some of the fiercest fighting between rebels and security forces loyal to President Assad.

The main road south from Damascus to Deraa was blocked by burning tyres.

In addition to the deaths in Deraa, the Observatory said 44 civilians were killed across the country, nearly half of them in the central province of Homs and in Damascus districts and suburbs.

Twenty-five soldiers were also killed on Friday, it said, in the provinces of Idlib, Damascus, Deir al-Zor, Homs and Deraa.