Rebels in Syria say Assad's forces had slaughtered at least 78 people, including women and children, but Assad's people say it was the rebels and the numbers were far fewer. ITN's Paul Davies reports. Warning: Some pictures in this report are disturbing.
The Syrian army was on Thursday shelling more towns, just a day after at least 78 villagers were allegedly slaughtered by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, a rebel fighter told msnbc.com.
"They are shooting now," the man, who asked to be called Abu Allaith to protect his family in Syria, told msnbc.com. He said helicopters were shooting at the villages of Safarneah, Taryesah and Makrameah near Hama. "I give you my word the helicopters are shooting by automatic gun."
Hardly any foreign journalists are allowed into Syria so there was no way to independently verify his account. The Syrian government has blamed reported massacres and other violence on foreign-backed terrorists.
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Anti-Syrian regime protesters chant slogans and hold a banner in Arabic.
Abu Allaith said he defected from the Syrian army in December when he was ordered to fire on civilians and was now a major with the rebel army.
He said he witnessed the attack on Mazraat al-Qubeir, the village near Hama where dozens of people, including around 40 women and children, were allegedly massacred on Wednesday.
"I have seen what happened there last night. The government army have gone there and shoot (people) on the farms," he said. "There is no Free Army there, nobody has weapons, (there are) just farmers."
The Free Syrian Army is the main armed opposition group in Syria.
Abu Allaith said he was just over a mile from the hamlet of Mazraat al-Qubeir, near Hama, when it was attacked, although he and his comrades have since fallen back about nine miles as it became too dangerous.
He has not been able to reach over a dozen friends and acquaintances from Mazraat al-Qubeir since the alleged attacks, he said.
"I am afraid for them, maybe they are killed, maybe they are arrested. Today I can't make ... contact with them," Abu Allaith said.
Syrian activists say 100 people were killed by government supporters Wednesday in the province of Hama, including many women and children. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to quell the crisis continue to stall. NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
The report came as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said monitors in Syria were shot at as they tried to reach the scene of the latest reported massacre.
Wednesday's reported violence comes after last month's massacre of more than 100 civilians in Houla, also blamed by activists and many in the world community on forces supporting the Assad government.
Syrian authorities have denied responsibility for the Houla killings, blaming foreign-backed Islamist militants.
The government also called the reports from Mazraat al-Qabeer "completely false," saying security forces had intervened at the request of residents after a "terrorist group committed ... a monstrous crime," killing nine women and children.
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