EMILY BOURKE: To Syria, where the government and rebels are arguing over who’s to blame for the latest massacre in the strife-torn country.
Yesterday the bodies of at least 65 young men, all dressed in civilian clothes, were pulled from a river in the northern city of Aleppo.
Each had their hands tied and had been killed by a single gunshot to the head.
Rebel groups blame security forces for the atrocities, while the government says it has no control over the area of the divided city where the bodies were recovered.
The United Nations representative is pleading with the Security Council to step in and bring an end to Syria’s bloody civil war.
Simon Santow reports.
(Sound of people yelling)
SIMON SANTOW: There’s no hiding the grief being felt in Syria’s most populous city.
(Sound of people yelling and wailing)
SIMON SANTOW: Aleppo, in the country’s north, is being torn apart by fighting.
Government-backed security forces and a coalition of rebels are engaged in gritty and often bloody conflict.
Each controls areas and each swaps claim and counter claim over the latest atrocity being carried out in the name of a united Syria.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is among the activists shining a light on the latest alleged massacre.
Their video shows at least 65 bodies, perhaps even as many as 100, all young men – many teenagers – being pulled from a river in the western district of Bustan al-Qasr.
MOHAMMAD SANDIK (translated): We heard there was a big massacre and there were bodies in the river. We found around 80 bodies. Some of these people were prisoners and they were executed. They were shot in the head.
SIMON SANTOW: The Free Syrian Army says the rebels are in no doubt that government forces are responsible for the brutality.
AHMAD SAMAK (translated): These are all civilians according to families who are identified them. Families told us they were missing for a week. They disappeared near Bustan al-Qasr.
SIMON SANTOW: British reporter, Ruth Sherlock from the Daily Telegraph newspaper, is in Aleppo.
RUTH SHERLOCK: When I arrived it was absolute pandemonium, there was pickup trucks outside with people standing, crying, screaming over corpses that were being taken away. I went into the school which is where the corpses were coming from and into the schoolyard I found dozens of bodies lined up. They’d all been numbered and we counted at least 71 and as though more had been taken away.
They were all men. Most of them were between the ages of 20 and 40 and there was a young boy as well, no older than 11 and another young boy that looked about the age of 15. They’d all been shot in the head.
SIMON SANTOW: She watched on as locals desperately attempted to identify their missing relatives.
RUTH SHERLOCK: Most of these men had gone missing several days before. The times varied. And they had been gone missing when they had been travelling towards government held areas. And of course we don’t know if they reached those areas. I spoke to one old man, who’s about 70, who lost two sons, both about 25 or 30.
And he said that he last saw his sons when they said they were going to get a new identity card from a government administration building, which is in a government-held part of Aleppo. They felt they had nothing to fear, they weren’t fighters. They said they’d left about 15 days before and that they hadn’t come back.
Other relatives of the dead also said the same thing, that for one reason or another it was going back to homes that they’d abandoned which were in government-held areas, to collect things, their loved ones had not come back.
SIMON SANTOW: The Guardian’s Martin Chulov was in Aleppo last week.
He says rebels and government security forces are evenly matched in the battle for the city.
But in recent times the momentum has shifted towards the rebels, and in particular towards groups backed by al Qaeda style terrorists.
MARTIN CHULOV: They’ve certainly got more gear than they used to and it does appear that heavy weaponry that they’ve been seeking for so long is now more available than it was and that that seems to be because of the raids on military bases across northern Syria, particularly near the Turkish border and just outside of Aleppo.
They were able to obtain at least six to eight missiles surface to air missiles that we know of, some heavy guns that are useful in terms of combating a rampant Syrian air force, and some explosive materials.
SIMON SANTOW: An increasingly messy and dangerous Syria has the UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi warning that the world cannot delay intervening any longer.
LAKHDAR BRAHIMI: Syria is being destroyed bit by bit. And in destroying Syria the region is being pushed into a situation that is extremely bad and extremely important for the entire world.
SIMON SANTOW: He’s urging the five permanent member of the Security Council to step in and end Syria’s civil war before it’s too late.
EMILY BOURKE: Simon Santow.
Massacre prompts new calls for end to Syrian civil war – ABC Online
Top Stories – Google News