‘Startling display of violence’ in alleged 2012 massacre of civilians by Syria authorities, investigation finds News
© WikiMedia Commons (Qasioun News Agency)
‘Startling display of violence’ in alleged 2012 massacre of civilians by Syria authorities, investigation finds

Human rights organization the Syrian British Consortium (SBC) Thursday published its investigation into the alleged massacre of civilians by the Syrian government and allied forces in the town of Daraya a decade ago. The investigation found that from August 19, 2012, to August 26, 2012, government forces killed at least 700 people, including women and children, through indiscriminate shelling and mass executions.

Daraya, a town just southwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus, was one of the most prominent centers of the Syrian uprising against Bashar al-Assad in 2011 and was widely recognized as the cornerstone of nonviolent resistance in the country. The town regularly held mass protests against the regime, and by 2012 government influence in the region had significantly diminished. These protests peaked during Ramadan, July 20 to August 18, 2012.

On August 19, the Syrian Government and allied militia forces began a wanton campaign of destruction against Daraya. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), estimated at no more than 800 strong, attempted to resist government forces of at least 10,000 troops but were quickly overwhelmed. After surrounding the city, regime troops then established military checkpoints restricting all movement into or out of the city before cutting off all power and mobile communications.

Between August 20 and 24, regime forces began indiscriminately shelling civilians trapped within these residential areas and intentionally targeted hospitals and other key infrastructure points with indirect rocket, missile, and mortar fire as well as direct attacks from helicopters and fixed-wing airstrikes. Infantry forces, comprising the Syrian Air Force Intelligence, the infamous Fourth Division and Assad’s own Republican Guard, entered the town on August 24, accompanied by Hezbollah and Iranian militia units. They set up additional checkpoints inside the town and positioned snipers on buildings across the town with orders to indiscriminately shoot on sight.

These units then attacked residential neighborhoods with tanks and heavy artillery before beginning a door-to-door search. They allegedly systematically raided homes by conducting “violent searches, intimidating residents, looting personal belongings, detaining men and older adolescent boys and committing mass extrajudicial executions of men, women and children across Daraya.” The investigation estimates that at least 700 people were killed in Daraya during this time, and the vast majority of those killed were clearly non-combatants. So far, 514 of those killed were documented by name, including “at least 36 women and 63 children.” Many other residents were also illegally detained during this period while even more are still missing.

By February 2013, the UN Commission of Inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Government forces perpetrated the war crime of murder against hors de combat fighters and civilians taking no active part in hostilities, including women and children” during the August 2012 attack on Daraya. However, the UN has never conducted a detailed investigation, and no one has ever been charged with any crimes related to the massacre.