|Part of the Syrian civil war|
|Location||Darayya, Rif Dimashq, Syria|
|Date||20–25 August 2012|
The Darayya massacre (Arabic: مجزرة داريا) was a reported massacre that happenened between 20 and 25 August 2012 in the town of Darayya in the Rif Dimashq province of Syria, during the Syrian civil war.
From the start of the conflict, the city of Darayya outside Damascus had been a hotspot for protesters against the government. When hundreds were arrested, locals took up arms. Two months before the massacre, the police and state intelligence had withdrawn from the town.
Soon after, 3,000 FSA fighters made Darayya their stronghold. They held a strategic position, situated on the edge of the military airport at Mezze, which was being used for air-strikes against rebel-held areas. Rebels and local residents reported opposition forces conducted mortar and rocket strikes against the base from Darayya. Also, a few days before the government attack, the rebels claimed to have killed 30 soldiers when they attacked a military checkpoint outside the town.
According to local residents' account, the attack on the town started after talks for a prisoner swap between the rebels and the military had failed. On 20 August 2012, Darayya was shelled. After that, hundreds of soldiers, backed by helicopters and armored vehicles entered Darayya, facing little resistance. The last rebel group withdrew in the face of the military advance and opposition activists were fearing that young men suspected of being rebels could be executed.
On 25 August, the bodies of 200 people were reportedly discovered in the town. Most of the dead appeared to be the result of executions. SOHR reported that the death toll had thus reached 270 killed during the four-day attack on Daraya, including women, children and rebels. 40–50 of the day's corpses had been discovered near a mosque. 80 of the dead had been identified as civilians, while 120 remained unidentified. An activist inside the town said he had seen a young 8-year-old girl shot dead by army sniper fire. Residents said that government troops and "Shabiha militiamen" raided some streets "two or three times". In several instances, they demanded hospitality when entering people's homes and then killed their hosts after leaving.
Opposition groups said that after the FSA fighters left the city, soldiers accompanied by "shabiha militia" members stormed in, raiding homes and arresting many, taking prisoners to the basements of empty buildings where they were shot execution-style, according to opposition accounts. Dozens were killed in Moadamyeh al-Sham, another Damascus suburb, the opposition said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said that 320 people were killed. The offensive against the town reportedly started with the military first surrounding Darayya, thus preventing civilians from escaping, then followed by several days of shelling and ending with house-to-house searches which resulted in executions. A video of what activists described as the fifth and latest mass grave to be filled showed two small children near the edge. One resident said, “The Assad forces killed them in cold blood...I saw dozens of dead people, killed by the knives at the end of Kalashnikovs, or by gunfire. The regime finished off whole families, a father, mother and their children. They just killed them without any pretext.”
On 29 August, journalist Robert Fisk, of "The Independent", travelled with the Syrian military to the town. According to Fisk, he was able to talk to local residents out of earshot of Syrian officials and was told that it was FSA fighters who committed at least some of the killings, the dead being off-duty soldiers or pro-government civilians. Fisk said locals also told him that their homes had been overtaken by rebels and in some cases demolished.
After the killings on 25 August, rebel forces withdrew to the towns outskirts and remaining residents were able to search the town, pro-government TV aired footage of dead people, including women and children claiming "terrorists" were behind the killings. A local woman said that "the armed groups (terrorist) occupied the city for 4 days and it was really tough, so they ran away from their house; and they knew that everything is secure now (that the Syrian Arab Army arrived)." A local resident said that they (armed groups) took Assad soldiers to a room and he heard shootings. Then they were forced to go back to the shelter where they found the army members dead in a room." Another resident said: "We didn't know what they (armed groups) want. They just said go to your houses. Some of those who went out were killed. If they didn't know a person they shot at him and killed him."
An opposition activist said that the army returned to some Darayya neighborhoods on 27 August and raided them, leading to the deaths of additional residents. A shopkeeper in the city said that "We found more than 100 dead bodies in the Abu Suleiman Derane mosque and gathered around 200 from homes and the streets to bury them in a mass grave today because the town’s graveyard is already full, the regime killed whole families from Darayya to punish us," he added. A GlobalPost reporter described Darayya as a city of “ghosts and dead bodies.”
United Nations – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stated the killings were "an appalling and brutal crime" and called for an immediate independent investigation. Navi Pillay said that she was "deeply shocked by the reports of the massacre in Darayya" and urged "an immediate and thorough investigation into this incident" whilst criticising the Syrian government for its use of heavy weapons, indiscriminate shelling and its reported bulldozing of houses, cautioning that these actions "may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity".
Egypt – President Mohamed Morsi called on for the Syrian president's allies to help push him out, saying that "Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights, and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene."
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