DAMASCUS- UN observers were finally allowed access to the location of the new reported massacre of Mazraat al-Qubeir village at Hama province, where dozens were killed; half of which were women and children.
After earlier obstructions on Thursday, UN observers on Friday reached the Syrian village of Mazraat al-Qubeir, where a massacre of civilians reportedly took place on Wednesday.
The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) sent teams of observers to the villages of el-Qubeir and el-Rastan on Friday to conduct a fact finding mission following reports of a massacre where opposition activists say dozens were killed.
“We found the village empty of its local inhabitants, bmp [tank] tracks on the road, a house damaged from shelling, with a wide range of calibre types and grenades,” said the spokesperson for the UN Supervision in Syria (UNSMIS), Sausan Ghosheh. We found burned homes, and at least one burnt with bodies inside – there was a heavy stench of burned flesh.”
According to media reports, Syrian activists claim that Government troops and militiamen massacred at least 78 villagers in Mazraat al-Qubeir, located near the city of Hama, on Wednesday. The Syrian Government has said the accusations are false.
A group of 25 UNSMIS observers reached the village mid-afternoon on Friday, after having been obstructed in earlier attempts.
The observers documented the signs of destruction in the village and visited the nearby village of Marzaf where they examined the burial sites.
The spokesperson added that a team of experts from UNSMIS is in the village trying to ascertain the facts of what occurred.
UNSMIS team has dispatched observers to the site early Thursday. Press reports said that they have been obstructed in their attempts to reach the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir, to verify reports of large-scale killings there.
“Their mission is being obstructed by three factors: First, they are being stopped at Syrian Army checkpoints and in some cases turned back; second, some of our patrols are being stopped by civilians in the area; third, we are receiving information from residents of the area that the safety of our observers is at risk if we enter the village,” the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Major-General Robert Mood, said in a statement on Thursday.
While trying to reach the location on Thursday, UNSMIS observers were held up at Syrian Army checkpoints, and in some cases turned back; they were also stopped by civilians in the area, and received information from residents of the area that their safety was at risk if they entered the village. In addition, they were shot at with small arms. “Residents from neighbouring villages came to speak to us, but none of them were witness to the killings on Wednesday,” Ms. Ghosheh said. “The circumstances surrounding this incident are yet not clear and we have not yet been able to verify the numbers.”
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 15 months ago.
The Security Council established UNSMIS in April to monitor the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitor and support the full implementation of a peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.
The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.