AMMAN/BEIRUT: About 220 Syrians, mostly civilians, were killed in a village in the Hama region when it was bombarded by helicopter gunships and tanks, then stormed by militiamen who slaughtered some families, opposition sources said on Friday.
UN special envoy Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and appalled" by news of "intense fighting, significant casualties, and the confirmed use of heavy weaponry such as artillery, tanks and helicopters" in the village of Tremseh.
"I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms," Annan said. There were no independent accounts of the number of dead or how they were killed. UN monitors in Syria are currently confined to Damascus because of mounting violence.
An activist video showed the bloodied corpses of 15 men with faces or shirts drenched in blood. Most wore T-shirts and jeans. Syrian state TV said there had been fighting in Tremseh and accused "armed terrorist groups" of committing a massacre there, but gave no death toll.
It said three soldiers had been killed. Opposition reports said Free Syrian Army rebels had been killed in a battle. Lieutenant Ibrahim Zuait al-Tarkawai was among those who died "defending the people of Tremseh", the Hama Revolution Leadership Council said.
This could be the worst atrocity in 16 months of fighting between rebels and the President Bashar al-Assad's forces. World powers are deadlocked over how to halt the bloodshed, with Russia and China opposed to Western and Arab calls for Assad to step down immediately.