A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published yesterday exposes sectarian massacres of hundreds of civilians by US-backed Sunni opposition forces during an offensive in early August, in the majority-Alwite region around the coastal city of Lattakia. Based on extensive photographic evidence and interviews with survivors, HRW found that at least 190 Alawite civilians were butchered and 200
taken hostage by opposition forces. The dead included at least 57 women, 18 children, and 14 elderly men. HRW acting Middle East Director Joe Stork said the massacres were "not the actions of rogue fighters. This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population of these Alawite villages." These events are an indictment of Washington and its European allies as well as the corporate media.all of which have backed Al Qaeda- linked opposition militias in Syria. The media have falsely hailed this opposition as fighters for democracy, pressing for a US-led war to support them. Two weeks after the Latttakia killings, Washington began a campaign for war with Syria, based on lies about a chemical attack in Ghouta, pulling back from the brink of war only due to mass opposition from American and European workers. The atrocities near Lattakia took place amid an offensive starting on August 4, the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It appears that opposition forces chose this date, like Nixon administration's Christmas bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam War, in order to terrorize its victims, showing them that it would not restrain its blood lust even during the most revered holidays. It fielded thousands of troops, armed with heavy machine guns, multiple-barreled rocket launchers, armored anti-aircraft guns, and a few captured tanks. Syrian army forces retook the area only on August 19. Alawite civilians who fell under opposition control were brutally massacred. HRW cites medical reports: "Cause of death in several of the bodies was multiple gunshot wounds all over the bodies, in addition to stab wounds made with a sharp instrument, given the decapitation observed in most bodies." Opposition officials contacted HRW early on in the offensive, when most of the killings apparently took place. The report cites one "opposition activist" who, on August 5, boasted to HRW: "We caught 150 women and 40 children, and killed all the men." The report details dozens of cases where defenseless civilians were slaughtered. In the village of Barouda, opposition fighters killed two civilians who were unable to escape: Safwan Hassan Shamieh Ali Darwish, who could only walk on crutches. In the village of Sleibel al-Hamboushieh, they murdered a blind 80-year-old woman, Nassiba Salem Sleim,, and several of her relatives. Other civilians were killed as they tried to escape the opposition militias. Ghazi Ibrahim Badour, who was fleeing with his wife and 10 children, said: "They cut off the road, so we tried to escape through the trees, but they were shooting at us , and two of my daughters died. My wife and another daughter Sefah Badour, who has a masters in Arabic literature, and my daughter Sara, who has a degree in philosophy, were killed." According to HRW, the opposition fighters who carried out the massacres were largely drawn from five Al Qaeda-linked militias: the Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ahrar al-Sham, Suqour al-Izz, and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar.