Activists, backed by amateur videos, are claiming fighting and mass killing by regime forces in Sukhna in Homs Province.
The activists say at least 22 people have been executed, with more killed by regime airstrikes, shelling, and mortar fire on Sukhna. They claim the town was then overrun by Syrian military reinforcements with armored
But what exactly has happened?
Videos point to the story of a battle — with bombings, including a suicide attacker, by insurgents and the takeover of regime positions — that led to the bloody retaliation by the Syrian military.
There has been heavy fighting in Sukhna all week. On Wednesday, activists reported:
Sukhna is again under ferocious bombardment by Assad’s forces, who are using heavy artillery, rocket launchers and mortars to pound the town indiscriminately, with MiG warplanes circling the town in preparation for fresh air raids. The number of casualties is unknown, but a number of people have reportedly been killed or injured in the ferocious ongoing regime bombardment. The town is crowded with people displaced from other areas of Homs by regime bombardment, as well as residents.
Iran’s Fars News, close to the Revolutionary Guards and with a bureau in Damascus, reported on Wednesday that Syrian forces had killed “scores of terrorists””:
Units of the armed forces restored security and stability to al-Sukhna town in Palmyra countryside in Homs, after destroying the last terrorists’ dens and gatherings in the town.
An official source said that the army units destroyed large amounts of weapons and ammunition and killed scores of terrorists, in addition to dismantling several explosive devices planted by terrorists in the town’s streets, before they were killed at the hands of the Syrian Army.
But what prompted such a heavy regime assault?
It appears to have been a response to a major insurgent attack. Activists, citing local sources, say the Free Syrian Army blew up a military security building and a checkpoint in Sukhnah with “two car bombs”. They claim that, in subsequent fighting, more than 80 Syrian troops were killed or wounded.
A video, posted on Thursday, may add another layer to the story. It claims to show the man responsible for conducting a suicide bombing — a “martyrdom operation” — against a regime army post in Sukhna.
The text accompanying the video says the insurgent is from the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra and is from Bilad al-Haramain in Saudi Arabia.
Another video, also posted on Thursday, shows insurgents from Jabhat al-Nusra storming Sakhna after the suicide attack:
Unconfirmed footage from Thursday night claiming to show Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra with a captured regime BMP (infantry fighting vehicle):
In video from Thursday, insurgents target a regime military security detachment in Sukhna, using a 57mm artillery gun.
Video, posted Friday morning, claims to show insurgents recovering the body of a dead insurgent during a raid on a military security post in the town [Warning — graphic footage]. The video has been uploaded in haste, as the footage is rotated by 90 degrees:
This video, posted on Friday, shows the corpse of an insurgent named as Abu Uthman al-Iraqi. The person or group who uploaded the video lists the names of the factions allegedly involved in the attack — Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Suriya and the Islamic State of Iraq and As-Sham.
So putting this all together:
1. The insurgents — in what appears to be an attack including Jabhat al-Nusra and elements of the Free Syrian Army, supported by bombings — took regime positions in Sakhna in their assault early this week.
2. The Syrian military, after airstrikes and shelling and bringing in reinforcements, re-claimed the town.
3. But who are the dead after this battle? Are they civilians or — we think more likely — insurgents as well as regime troops?
And were those insurgents killed in fighting or were they “executed” after Assad’s military re-occupied Sakhna?