Syria denies using heavy weapons in Tremseh assault

Jihad Makdissi said that what happened at Tremseh last Thursday wasn’t a massacre but rather a "military operation".

Updated: Jul 15, 2012, 21:43 PM IST

Damascus (Syria): Syrian foreign ministry spokesman denied the use of helicopter gunships and tanks in the Army operation on the carnage-hit town of Tremseh last week, saying what happened was not a massacre but clashes between the Syrian troops and armed groups.

On Thursday, scores of people in Tremseh got killed in a carnage, the circumstances of which were murky with both the government and the opposition trading accusations.

The Syrian government said army troops carried out a qualitative operation in the village against armed groups, upon the request of the residents who were terrorized by the gunmen in that area.

In a briefing Sunday, Jihad Makdissi said that what happened at Tremseh last Thursday wasn’t a massacre but rather a "military operation between the army forces and armed groups that have slapped against the wall" the six-point plan of the UN-Arab League joint special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan. "What had been said about the use of heavy weapons was baseless, " he said, adding that "what happened wasn’t an attack on civilians."

He said only light weapons were used, including RPGs, adding that the air force wasn’t involved in the operation and neither did the tanks, contrary to what the UN observers said about the use of helicopters in the army operations. He said the gunmen had fully controlled the village which was turned into a launching pad to mount attacks against security and army forces. He quoted what he called an old local who was present during the burial of the dead in the town as saying that only 37 gunmen and two civilians were killed in the attack which he said had lasted for a few hours.

He added that only five buildings that were used as headquarters for armed groups were targeted during the attack. Those buildings contained weapon stores and torture and detention centers.

Makdissi said there have been 10,500 violations by armed groups since the ceasefire went into effect in Syria on April 12. He said the Syrian forces found big quantity of weapons, explosives and ammunition there. Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the UN Supervision Mission in Syrian (UNSMIS) said Sunday that "we can confirm that there was a military operation on July 12 on Thursday.

The attacks appeared targeted towards specific homes of activists as well as army defectors." The spokesperson statement came a day after a group of observers entered Tremseh to verify facts on ground. "UN team observed homes which had pools of blood and blood splatters in some of the rooms as well as empty bullet cases," Sausan Ghosheh said. She said "there was a wide range of weapons used including heavy weapons and artillery, mortars and small arms."

Meanwhile, Makdissi said it’s the state’s task to protect the observers`` mission, warning that "entering hot areas would be on their own responsibility." The Tremseh incident sparked international condemnation and prompted super powers to call for a UN resolution that calls on the Syrian regime to pull out troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days otherwise Syria would face non- military sanctions.

However, the resolution is demanded to be adopted under the chapter 7 of the UN charter, which would allow the resolution to be imposed militarily. Russia has expressed opposition to the new resolution.