Government forces and militias loyal to President Bashar al Assad invaded, Thursday (2), the coastal town of Baida, killing at least 50 people, including women and children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The group, which operates in Britain and disseminates reports of opposition activists, said the death toll could exceed 100. Many of the victims appear to have been executed by gunfire or stabbings, and other bodies were burned, it said.
Because of government restrictions on press work, it was not possible to verify these reports independently. Hours before the rebels attacked a bus full of pro-Assad militiamen, killing at least six people and wounding 20.
In response, government forces and militiamen encircled and neighboring Maqreb Baida near the city of Banias, and bombed with mortars before invading Baida. The coastline is a stronghold of the Syrian Alawite sect, a minority to which Assad belongs.
Baida was the scene of one of the first clashes of the current sectarian conflict about two years when Alawite militiamen attacked Sunni protesters, killing seven people. The city of Bania and villages in its surroundings form a pocket of the Sunni majority, Alawites surrounded by localities.
The Sunnis, who are the majority in Syria, are the main force behind the rebellion against Assad. Sectarian clashes and accusations of massacre are increasingly common in a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.
The Observatory said that after the attack on Thursday, “the fate of dozens of residents is still unknown,” and that “several houses were destroyed by regime forces and loyalist gunmen from neighboring villages Alawites.
The information is still scarce because the phone lines and internet were cut. “Government forces and allied militias appear to have made substantial progress in recent weeks, holding various suburbs around Damascus and recaptured territory in the province of Homs, the cradle of the insurgency .
Thursday, pro-Assad forces retook a district in the central city of Homs, in an offensive that the Observatory said to have been supported by and coordinated by Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah militants.