Beirut - Syria's main opposition group on Friday accused
President Bashar Assad's regime of committing a "large-scale
massacre" in a Sunni village near the Mediterranean coast the previous
day, leaving at least 50 people dead, according to activists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
said Syrian troops backed by pro-government gunmen swept into Bayda, a village
in the mountains outside the city of Banias on Thursday, killing people,
including women and children, and torching homes.
The group documented the names of at least 50 dead but
says as many as 100 may have been killed. The Observatory, which relies on a
network of activists on the ground, cited witnesses as saying that some of the
victims were killed with knives or blunt objects and that dozens of villagers
were still missing.
"Reports now confirm a large-scale massacre in
Bayda," the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement.
"Initial reports confirm that Assad's forces were
directly involved" in the violence in the area, the statement added. The
Coalition urged the international community to act and protect Syrian
"It is time for the world to intervene and put an
end to the grievous crimes of the Assad regime," the Cairo-based
opposition group said in a statement e-mailed to the media on Friday.
The Syrian troops were still in Bayda village on Friday,
conducting house to house searches, said Rami Abdul Rahman, the Observatory's
He added that phones in the area remained cut off and
communication with witnesses was only possible through satellite telephones.
The Syrian conflict, now in its third year, started as
peaceful protests against Assad's rule in March 2011.
It turned into armed conflict between the opposition and
the government, after some opposition supporters took up weapons to fight a
harsh regime crackdown on dissent and soon became a full-scale civil war.
More than 70 000 people have been killed so far in the
conflict, according to the UN.
Over a million Syrians have fled their homes and sought
shelter in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, while
millions more have been internally displaces by the fighting.
The war has also split the country along religious lines,
and the violence in Bayda appeared to have sectarian overtones.
The village is primarily inhabited by Sunni Muslims, who
dominate the country's rebel movement, while most of the surrounding villages
are home to members of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of
If confirmed, the violence in Bayda would be the latest
in a string of alleged mass killings in Syria's civil war.
Last month, activists said government troops killed more
than 100 people as they seized two rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.
No end to bloodshed
The relentless fighting has left the international
community at a loss to find ways to end the bloodshed as neither side appears
willing to find a political solution at the moment.
While the US and its European and Gulf allies have backed
the opposition forces, they have been reluctant to provide the rebels fighting
Assad's troops with weapons that could stand up to the regime's superior
They fear the arms could end up in the hands of radical
Islamic groups that in the past year have become the most effective fighting
force on the opposition's side.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama said his
administration is looking at every option to end the bloodshed in Syria.
Speaking during a news conference in Mexico City, Obama
said the administration is proceeding cautiously as it looks at options, to
ensure that what it does is helpful to the situation rather than making it more
deadly or complex.
In Washington, Obama's defence secretary, Chuck Hagel,
became the first top US official to acknowledge publicly that the
administration is rethinking its opposition to arming the Syrian rebels.
During a Pentagon news conference on Thursday, Hagel said
that "arming the rebels — that's an option," but added that the
administration was looking at all options.
"It doesn't mean that the president has decided on
anything," Hagel said.