Assad's troops occupied the northern city of Idlib on Tuesday, after days of heavy shelling that left whole sections of the city in ruins. Now, civilians fleeing Idlib have described horrific scenes of soldiers randomly killing civilians after carrying out house-to-house searches.
“Dozens of civilians were killed and scores of bodies dumped near the main marketplace and in a street in front of Shoaib mosque,” said Avaaz citizen journalist "Nour", who spoke to civilians escaping the carnage. “Soldiers raped several women and young girls in the neighbourhood of Elmeen, and destroyed all field hospitals including those set up inside mosques.”
A tale of two cities
Just two weeks ago, troops backed by tanks finally entered the shattered Baba Amr district of Homs, which had been under bombardment for almost a month, leaving over 700 people dead.
Many villages around Idlib now face a similar fate. Citizen journalists in the area describe them as ghost towns after most locals escaped to the Turkish border. Those left behind remain locked in their houses, terrified of sniper fire and constant shelling, and with almost no running water or electricity.
Citizen journalist "Mustafa" described soldiers entering his village of Ein LaRose last week. They killed 10 people and kidnapped 35 others, including three women. “They demanded that we release four soldiers who had been captured in exchange for these civilians,” he told Avaaz.
“They gave until seven yesterday evening before killing the hostages held in the nearby village of Ebleen. We searched for the four soldiers but found no trace of them. The army released 31 hostages yesterday, but killed four and burned their bodies. Many of them were relatives of mine from Al Quntar."
Before she was killed by Assad's artillery, journalist Marie Colvin warned of "another Srebenica". There is a grave danger that the village of Ebleen will earn this comparison. Reports are emerging of a torture camp set up there by Assad's troops, in a rural development compound which once housed a clinic and kindergarten.
The centre is being manned by Sergeant Ali Khalouf. "News and messages we receive confirm that Khalouf is determined to kill a thousand people from the opposition in retaliation for the killing of his brother during the fighting in Homs,” citizen journalist Nour told Avaaz.
“The few freed from the centre recount tales of horrific torture happening there. The sergeant is determined to persecute activists and kill them and their families and dismember their bodies.”
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