“The regime does not allow anyone to get in or out of the area. There is no way to save the injured people,” said a rebel military spokesman who uses the pseudonym Musab Abu Qatada.
News of the possible massacre trickled out of the Damascus area on a day when tensions flared along Syria’s border with Lebanon, where the chances of spillover violence have become increasingly likely. Lebanon fought a gruesome sectarian war in the 1980s, and its government has sought to stay out of the Syrian conflict.
Syria’s predominantly Sunni rebels have accused the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah of backing Syrian government forces in heavy fighting around the border town of Qusair in recent weeks. And Monday, two prominent Lebanese Sunni clerics, Ahmad al-
Assir and Salem al-Rifai, called on Lebanese Sunnis to fight on behalf of the Syrian rebels against Hezbollah, threatening to upset Lebanon’s precarious sectarian balance.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog group, said Monday afternoon that activists in Jdeidet al-Fadel had documented 101 dead inside the town, including at least 10 women and three children. But the Observatory said in a statement that the actual death toll could exceed 250 because “there are missing people that are hard to reach while the regime forces are deployed to the town.”
Activists also said that a number of the area’s residents were arrested over the weekend as rebel fighters ran out of ammunition and retreated, allowing forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to accelerate their offensive. Some estimated that hundreds had disappeared; they also said that area shops were looted and that homes were burned.
“Those arrests were taking place in a street where the [rebel Free Syrian Army] was not present, and they could not stop it,” said Aya Mahaini, an activist who spoke by Skype, using an alias, from the neighboring suburb of Madhamiyat al-Sham. The suburb also has been shelled repeatedly in recent days. The sounds of explosions frequently interrupted the conversation.
It was impossible to verify specific events or the number of missing or casualties beyond the accounts of activists. The United Nations says that at least 70,000 people have been killed and nearly a quarter of Syria’s population has been displaced in more than two years of brutal civil war.
The Syrian Arab News Agency, a mouthpiece for the Assad government, said Monday that government forces had “inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists in the town of Jdeidet al-Fadel in Damascus Countryside, injuring a number of them [and] killing others.”