Syrian Rebels Responsible For Houla Massacre?
John Rosenthal at National Review passes along a report from Germany’s leading daily newspaper [link directs to German language source] that implicates the Syrian rebels in the massacre of some 90 civilians in the city of Houla, a massacre that many in the West have used for a renewed round of denunciations of the Assad regime:
[A]ccording to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print out of fear of reprisals from armed opposition groups.
According to the article’s sources, the massacre occurred after rebel forces attacked three army-controlled roadblocks outside of Houla. The roadblocks had been set up to protect nearby Alawi majority villages from attacks by Sunni militias. The rebel attacks provoked a call for reinforcements by the besieged army units. Syrian army and rebel forces are reported to have engaged in battle for some 90 minutes, during which time “dozens of soldiers and rebels” were killed.
“According to eyewitness accounts,” the FAZ report continues,
the massacre occurred during this time. Those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla’s population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet.
Rosenthal also makes note a report from Dutch sources that cite eyewitness accounts from members of the Monastery of St. James in Qara that appear to corroborate the claims that the Houla attack was carried out by rebels and directed at Alawite and Shia minority communities.
None of this is to downplay the brutality of the Assad regime, which has been responsible for most of the violence that has occurred over the past year or so. However, it is a strong indication that the world needs to be exceedingly careful about both becoming too involved in the Syrian conflict, and becoming too closely involved with rebels who may turn out to be no better than Assad himself.