SYRIA’S brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protests took a chilling turn on Monday with the discovery of a mass grave in Daraa, the town at the heart of protests roiling the country for two months, an activist said.
According to Ammar Qurabi, an official at the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, Daraa residents “discovered a mass grave in the old part of town but authorities immediately cordoned off the area to prevent residents from recovering the bodies, some of which they promised would be handed over later”.
Mr Qurabi said the Syrian regime must bear full responsibility for the crimes committed against “unarmed” citizens and urged the international community and civil society to pressure it to stop the “brutal repression” of its people.
He was unable say how many people were buried in the alleged mass grave.
His account could not be independently verified as Syrian authorities have all but sealed off the country to foreign journalists amid a brutal crackdown against unprecedented protests threatening the regime of President Bashar al Assad.
Mr Qurabi said that 34 people had also been killed in the past five days in the towns of Jassem and Inkhil, near Daraa.
“I fear that dozens more casualties may be lying in nearby wheat fields and orchards because families have not been able to access the region which is encircled by security troops and snipers,” he said.
The unrest in Syria first erupted in Damascus on March 15 but was promptly put down and soon spread to Daraa and across the country with protesters emboldened by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
More than 850 people, including women and children, have been killed and at least 8,000 arrested as security forces crack down on the protest movements, according to rights groups.
The bloodshed spilled into neighbouring Lebanon over the weekend when a Syrian woman, among dozens fleeing the northwestern town of Tall Kalakh, was killed and six other people wounded, a Lebanese security official said.
Witnesses contacted by telephone also reported 10 people were killed on Sunday in Tall Kalakh, located near the Lebanese border, as security forces deployed inside the town.
Shelling and shooting was also reported in the nearby town of Arida, an activist told AFP.