The Battle of Tremseh (Arabic : معركة التريمسة) was a military confrontation between the Syrian Army and the Free Syrian Army in Tremseh, Syria, in the late hours of 12 July 2012 during the Syrian Civil War leading to the reported death of dozens of rebels, and an unknown number of civilians. On 14 July 2012, the UN observer mission issued a statement, based on the investigation by its team that went to the town, that the Syrian military mainly targeted the homes of rebels and activists, in what the BBC said was a contradiction of the initial opposition claims of a civilian massacre. They said that the number of casualties was unclear and added that they intend to return to the town to continue their investigation.
Tremseh, or in various dialects Tremseh, Treimsa, Taramsah, Taramseh in the Hama Governorate in northern Syria. It is roughly 22 miles northwest of the central city of Hama. Nearby localities include district center Mahardah and Shaizar to the east, Khunayzir to the southeast, Asilah to the south, Safsafiyah to the southwest, Asharnah and Tell Salhab to the west, al-Jalmah to the north and Kafr Hud to the northeast. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Tremseh had a population of 6,926 in the 2004 census. The town was reported to have a population of between 7,000 and 11,000.
Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.
The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Ba'athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies, and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the Syrian government and each other in varying combinations. The war is currently the 2nd deadliest of the 21st century.
On 16 July 2012, the Free Syrian Army backtracked on their initial death toll of 200, saying it had been overblown because many of the wounded were counted as dead, and reduced the list of those confirmed killed to 68–103 names. But still, pro-rebel activist Abu Adnan continued to claim 150 died, with the rest of the bodies allegedly being unidentifiable or stolen by the military during their assault.
A Syrian Army convoy was ambushed by rebels near Hama, which led to a counter-attack by the Syrian Army, and reports suggested government troops were trying to take back the town from rebel forces.According to opposition activists, Tremseh was surrounded by government tanks and artillery, after which the Syrian Army launched a full-scale attack against the opposition Free Syrian Army inside the town. Tanks entered Tremseh after government forces had shelled the town continuously from 5 a.m. until noon. Syrian Army forces, whose numbers were bolstered by the pro-government militias called "Shabeha", accompanied the tanks into Tremseh. The opposition claimed that, as the government forces rained artillery rounds into the town, a number of village residents fled their houses into the streets, where many of them were shot dead by the government militias. Major General Robert Mood, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, said in Damascus that a U.N. team had observed the fighting from three or four miles outside Tremseh, adding that it involved "mechanized units, indirect fire as well as helicopters."
The Syrian Army, officially the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), is the land force branch of the Syrian Armed Forces. It is the dominant military service of the four uniformed services, controlling the most senior posts in the armed forces, and has the greatest manpower, approximately 80 percent of the combined services. The Syrian Army originated in local military forces formed by the French after World War I, after France obtained a mandate over the region. It officially came into being in 1945, before Syria obtained full independence the following year.
Hama is a city on the banks of the Orontes River in west-central Syria. It is located 213 km (132 mi) north of Damascus and 46 kilometres (29 mi) north of Homs. It is the provincial capital of the Hama Governorate. With a population of 854,000, Hama is the fourth-largest city in Syria after Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.
According to sources close to the government, the attack on Tremseh was part of a larger offensive decided by the Syrian government, with the aim to crush all rebel resistance in the next two months. One police agent successfully infiltrated an Idlib armed group and was able to notify the military about the rebels who were gathering at Tremseh and preparing the convoy attack.
The Local Coordination Committees in Hama and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Syrian Army and the Shabiha, backed by tanks and attack helicopters, entered the town of Tremseh after a rebel withdrawal, and summarily executedover a hundred people. Initial reports placed the death toll at more than 100. Later reports said the death toll of the massacre to be between 220 and 250, when over 150 dead bodies were found in the local mosque after Syrian Army forces left. The people in the mosque, who tried to find shelter there, apparently died when the building was shelled and then collapsed on them. At one point, the LCC claimed a figure of 280 dead and 200 missing.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, founded in May 2006, is a United Kingdom-based information office whose stated aim is to document human rights abuses in Syria; since 2011 it has focused on the Syrian Civil War. It is frequently quoted by major news outlets since the beginning of the war about daily numbers of deaths from all sides in the conflict and particularly civilians killed in airstrikes in Syria. The SOHR has been described as being "pro-opposition" and anti-Assad.
Shabiha (Levantine Arabic: شبيحة šabbīḥa, pronounced [ʃabˈbiːħa]; also romanized Shabeeha or Shabbiha'; is a term for state sponsored militias of the Syrian government. However, in the Aleppo Governorate the term Shabiha is used frequently to refer to pro-Assad Sunni tribes such as al-Berri, al-Baggara, al-Hasasne and al-Zeido. In the city of Aleppo itself it was led by the powerful Sunni Arab al-Berri tribe.
A number of the dead were reportedly rebels,which was confirmed by the opposition group SOHR by stating that dozens of the dead were rebel fighters, including Lieutenant Ibrahim Zuait al-Tarkawai. Jaafar, a Sham News Network opposition activist, said that only seven civilians and 30 rebels were killed. This was in line with the military's claim of killing a "big number of terrorists". SOHR put the overall death toll at 150, with only 40 confirmed dead by name thus far. A villager who managed to escape the area said, on condition of anonymity, that Alawite militiamen entered after Syrian rebels retreated from the area and committed the massacre. The survivor said that houses and mosques were set ablaze by the government forces.
The Syrian government denied responsibility for killing civilians, instead claiming that the massacre was perpetrated by "armed gangs" and that three members of the security forces were killed fighting them. The government also gave a lower figure of 50 civilians being killed.The Syrian government subsequently retracted the claim and denied that any civilians died at all, saying that they "had carried out a special operation against rebel forces killing many rebels and capturing dozens of others," adding that no civilians were killed. According to the Syrian government, residents called security forces for help after the "terrorist groups" raided the neighborhood. The security forces then arrested some of the members of the rebel groups and confiscated their weapons. A military source quoted by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said an operation by armed forces destroyed "terrorists' dens," killed many of the people they found there, and led to the arrests of scores more." The account added, "Armed forces successfully dealt with the terrorists without casualties taking place among the citizens. They searched into the terrorists' dens where they found the dead bodies of a number of citizens who had been abducted and killed by the terrorist groups."
Kofi Annan, the UN special envoy, accused the Syrian government of using heavy weapons and helicopters in the village. Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for Syria's Foreign Ministry, denied that heavy weapons were used in the village and said the heaviest weapon used was an RPG.
A local opposition member, Fadi Sameh, was quoted as saying, "It appears that Alawite militiamen (Shabiha) from surrounding villages descended on Turaymisah after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling."
Another was quoted as saying, "Around 6:00 am of Thursday morning, Assad forces surrounded the village with heavy weaponry and tanks, more than 800 soldiers of Assad forces were in the mission, after couple of hours, they started arbitrary artillery shelling on the village. People fled their home to seek shelters in school and the mosque. Assad forces shelled the school and the mosque causing collapses in the buildings which resulted in tens of deaths. Shabiha from the surrounding villages came to support Assad forces and to kill more of the village people, which escalate the number of victims in this massacre."
The UN observer mission head, Robert Mood, said that the Syrian Army was still conducting assaults with heavy weapons around the town the following day.
By the evening of 13 July 2012, the opposition Syrian National Council claimed a new total figure of 305 killed.However, at the same time, other opposition activists backed away from their earlier estimates of over 200 dead. One local activist stated that he had confirmed 74 deaths, but had only 20 names. Another provided a list of 103 names. Others also said the death toll may have been less but was certainly over 100.
A group of UN-observers had entered Tremseh on 14 July 2012 with a convoy of around 11 vehicles on reconnaissance mission. According to a local activist in Hama province they inspected bombed places and where there were traces of blood.The UN observers found evidence of an attack, including a burned school, damaged houses, and proof that artillery, mortars and small arms were used according spokeswoman for the head of the U.N. Supervising Mission in Syria, Sausan Ghosheh. "The attack ... appeared targeted at specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists. There were pools of blood and blood spatters in rooms of several homes together with bullet cases," Ghosheh said in a statement. On the same day the head of the UN monitoring mission, Major General Robert Mood, told reporters in Damascus that a group of observers, deployed few kilometres from Tremseh, confirmed the use of heavy weaponry and attack helicopters in Tremseh and thereby implicated the Syrian government according to Al Jazeera.
On 14 July 2012, the facts over the event remained unclear with new details emerging that would indicate that what was called a massacre was more of a battle between the military and opposition fighters that ended in a defeat for the rebels.Videos, televised confessions of captured fighters and reports from non-local activists backed up this version. The videos of the victims that have emerged showed mostly young men of fighting age. Another video was said to show a group of rebel reinforcements heading to Tremseh, all of them armed young men in civilian clothes. A team of UN observers was sent to the town to investigate. It was pointed out that while previous massacres were usually followed by long lists of names and videos of killed civilians emerging at the same time, as well as corroboration by UN observers who would fault the Syrian Army, this was not so in this case. Some opposition groups still claimed a large number of civilian deaths happened while others put the death toll at far less and stated most were rebels. The opposition activist group SOHR stated that it had been able to confirm only 103 deaths, 90 percent of them young men, and the group's director, Rami Abdul-Rahman, said that the majority of people killed in Tremseh were either rebel fighters from the town or from surrounding towns. Later, he was more precise, stating that at least 50 rebels were killed. The opposition activist group VDC confirmed, by this point, the names of only 63 people to have been killed.
Late on 14 July, the UN observer mission issued a statement, based on the investigation by its team that went to the town, that the Syrian military mainly targeted the homes of rebels and activists.Opposition activists gave a new revised figure of 103 to 152 dead but stated they were expecting the number to rise because, according to them, hundreds of people were unaccounted for and locals believed many bodies remained in the fields that were close to army checkpoints or were disposed of into the Orontes River. The UN observers could not immediately determine the total number of casualties and announced they would return to the area the next day to further investigate.
On 15 July, the government stated that 37 of the dead were rebels and only two were civilians.Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus that no helicopters, aircraft or armoured tanks were used in the attack – only troop carriers and small arms, including rocket-propelled grenades. "It was not a massacre but a response by regular military forces against heavily armed groups that do not want a political solution," Mr Makdissi said. Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared it sees the fighting in Syria as a "non-international armed conflict", which is the technical term for civil war. This would have the effect that, from that point on, all those fighting in Syria are officially subject to the Geneva Conventions and could end up at a war crimes tribunal if they disobeyed them.
On 16 July, rebels gave a revised death toll of approximately 150. They said higher numbers in the past were because of mistakingly counting the wounded as dead, and that only 68 bodies were present due to others being "stolen" by the Syrian Army. By 15 July, they had the names of 103 of those who died, and about 30 of the bodies were too badly burnt to be identified. 5 children and 1 woman were amongst those killed, the rest were all males. Free Syrian Army (FSA) leader, Saleh al-Subaai, was also confirmed killed in the battle.
Before the UN observer mission's investigation contradicted the opposition claims of a civilian massacre, a number of countries condemned the alleged killings.
The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from May to August 2011, including the escalation of violence in many Syrian cities.
The Siege of Hama (2011) was among the nationwide crackdowns by the Syrian Government during the early stage of the Syrian Civil War. Anti-government protests had been ongoing in the Syrian city of Hama since 15 March 2011, when large protests were first reported in the city, similar to the protests elsewhere in Syria as part of the wider Syrian Civil War. The events beginning in July 2011, were described by anti-government activists in the city as a "siege" or "blockade".
The following is a timeline of the Syrian uprising from September to December 2011. This period saw the uprising take on many of the characteristics of a civil war, according to several outside observers, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, as armed elements became better organized and began carrying out successful attacks in retaliation for the ongoing crackdown by the Syrian government on demonstrators and defectors.
The Siege of Homs was a military confrontation between the Syrian military and the Syrian opposition in the city of Homs as a part of the Syrian Civil War. The siege lasted three years from May 2011 to May 2014, and resulted in an opposition withdrawal from the city.
The September 2011 – March 2012 Idlib Governorate clashes were the violent incidents that took place in Idlib Governorate, a province of Syria, from September 2011 and prior to the April 2012 Idlib Governorate Operation.
The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from January to April 2012, during which time the spate of protests that began in January 2011 lasted into another calendar year. An Arab League monitoring mission ended in failure as Syrian troops and anti-government militants continued to do battle across the country and the Syrian government prevented foreign observers from touring active battlefields, including besieged opposition strongholds. A United Nations-backed ceasefire brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan met a similar fate, with unarmed UN peacekeepers' movements tightly controlled by the government and fighting.
The 2012 Homs offensive was a Syrian Army offensive on the armed rebellion stronghold of Homs, within the scope of the Siege of Homs, beginning in early February 2012 and ending with the U.N. brokered cease fire on April 14, 2012.
The Battle of Idlib was a battle that was fought in the city of Idlib, located in the north of Syria, starting on 10 March 2012. The battle took place in a province considered a stronghold of the armed opposition to the Syrian government and was fought in the wider context of the Syrian Army trying to retake several rebel strongholds. After three days of fighting, the Syrian Army recaptured the city.
The Hama Governorate clashes were a series of incidents of fighting during late 2011 and early 2012 in the Syrian Governorate of Hama, as part of the Early insurgency phase of the Syrian Civil War.
The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from May to August 2012. The majority of death tolls reported for each day comes from the Local Coordination Committees, an opposition activist group based in Syria, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, another opposition group based in London.
The Houla massacre was an attack that took place on May 25, 2012, in the midst of the Syrian Civil War, in the town of Taldou, in the Houla Region of Syria, a string of towns northwest of Homs. According to the United Nations, 108 people were killed, including 34 women and 49 children. While a small proportion of the deaths appeared to have resulted from artillery and tank rounds used against Taldou, the U.N. later announced that most of the massacre's victims had been "summarily executed in two separate incidents". UN investigators have reported that some witnesses and survivors stated that the massacre was committed by pro-government Shabiha. In August 2012 UN investigators released a report which stated that it was likely that Syrian troops and Shabiha militia were responsible for the massacre, concluding that: "On the basis of available evidence, the commission has a reasonable basis to believe that the perpetrators of the deliberate killing of civilians, at both the Abdulrazzak and Al-Sayed family locations, were aligned to the Government. It rests this conclusion on its understanding of access to the crime sites, the loyalties of the victims, the security layout in the area including the position of the government’s water authority checkpoint and the consistent testimonies of victims and witnesses with direct knowledge of the events. This conclusion is bolstered by the lack of credible information supporting other possibilities."
The Al-Qubeir massacre, also known as the Hama massacre, occurred in the small village of Al-Qubeir near Hama, Syria, on 6 June 2012 during the country's ongoing civil conflict. Al-Qubeir is described as a Sunni farming settlement surrounded by Alawite villages in the central province of Hama. According to preliminary evidence, troops had surrounded the village which was followed by pro-government Shabiha militia entering the village and killing civilians with "barbarity," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the UN Security Council.
Human rights violations during the Syrian civil war have been numerous and serious, with United Nations reports stating that the war has been "characterized by a complete lack of adherence to the norms of international law" by the warring parties who have "caused civilians immeasurable suffering". For the background and legal content use the prosecution of Syrian civil war criminals.
The Battle of Damascus, also known as Operation Damascus Volcano, started on 15 July 2012 during the Syrian Civil War. It is unclear who started the battle. Thousands of rebels infiltrated Damascus from the surrounding countryside. Following this, according to some reports, the opposition forces launched an operation to capture the capital, while according to other reports, the military learned of the large-scale rebel operation beforehand and made a preemptive strike. Some reports even suggested the rebels launched the operation prematurely due to their plans being discovered by the security forces.
The following is a timeline of the Syrian Civil War from May to December 2013. Information about aggregated casualty counts is found at Casualties of the Syrian Civil War.
The Hatla massacre was the killing of 30 to 60 Shia villagers, including some who were armed, conducted by Syrian opposition fighters and Salafist Al-Nusra Front members in the eastern Syrian village of Hatla, near Deir ez-Zor, on 11 June 2013 during the Syrian Civil War. At least 30 of the dead were civilians. According to a UN report, 30 people were killed.
The Maan massacre was a reported massacre of Alawites in the village of Ma'an, Syria on 9 February 2014.
On 12 May 2016, militants of the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham attacked and captured the Alawite village of Zara'a, Southern Hama Governorate.
The early insurgency phase of the Syrian Civil War lasted from late July 2011 to April 2012, and was associated with the rise of armed oppositional militias across Syria and the beginning of armed rebellion against the authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic. Though armed insurrection incidents began as early as June 2011 when rebels killed 120–140 Syrian security personnel, the beginning of organized insurgency is typically marked by the formation of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on 29 July 2011, when a group of defected officers declared the establishment of the first organized oppositional military force. Composed of defected Syrian Armed Forces personnel, the rebel army aimed to remove Bashar al-Assad and his government from power.