Initial Report of Judicial Investigation Committee on al-Houla Massacre: Victims belonged to Peaceful Families who Refused to Stand up against State
DAMASCUS, (SANA)_The initial report of the judicial committee investigating al-Houla massacre affirmed that all the victims belonged to peaceful families who wouldn’t stand up to the state and had never joined protests or held up arms, who also had opposed the armed terrorist groups.
The initial findings indicated that the victims were killed by fire at close distance and sharp tools, not by shellfire.
The initial report added that the armed terrorist groups who gathered in al-Houla liquidated the victims in the process of an attack on the law-enforcement members who hadn’t entered the area where the massacre occurred, adding that most of the bodies are of terrorists who were killed in the clash with the law-enforcement members.
Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, head of the investigation committee, said in a press conference at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday that the investigation is in its initial stages and is still underway.
He added that the investigation committee depended on testimonies of eyewitnesses who saw the massacre happen that can be directly verified, adding that some of them will appear on TVs, indicating that the initial report was based on evidences and facts in relation to the armed attack that targeted the law-enforcement members in the town.
Gen. Suleiman said that law-enforcement members were positioned at five points in al-Houla, adding that the armed attack was aimed at turning the place into an area outside the state’s control.
Suleiman said that the armed men gathered inside the village after Friday prayers and started an onslaught simultaneously with other gunmen numbered between 600-800 who came from neighboring areas, namely al-Rastan, al-Sa’an, Burjka’I, al-Sam’alin and others, where mortars, machineguns and anti-tank missiles were used, targeting two law-enforcement points as the main target of the attack, one near Taldao and the second near al-Sa’a Roundabout.
Suleiman said that the terrorist groups came from outside the town and simultaneously liquidated peaceful families during the attack on the law-enforcement members.
He indicated that the place where the massacre happened is in an area where there are armed terrorist groups, and no law-enforcement members entered the area neither before nor after the massacre, indicating that the area is located far from the law-enforcement members’ posts.
He added that the law-enforcement members hadn’t left their positions but defended themselves against the terrorist groups, which can be verified through the victims’ images aired by satellite channels, showing that the massacre happened due to close fire and sharp tools, not shellfire as the images showed no signs of mashing, burns or traces of shelling buildings, which means that what happened was direct liquidation.
Suleiman added that killing children does not serve the law-enforcement members or the state, but serves the armed terrorist groups who seek to incite sedition.
Gen. Suleiman said that all the victims belonged to peaceful families who wouldn’t stand up to the state and had never joined protests or held up arms, who also had opposed the armed terrorist groups, indicating that the terrorist groups aimed to invite foreign and humanitarian intervention.
Suleiman said that the massacre targeted the relatives of the People’s Assembly member Abdul-Moa’ti Mashlab whom they wanted to take revenge of before the events ran contrary to the plan and the massacre extended to slaughter other families.
He affirmed that the massacre perpetrated by armed terrorist groups is part of the scheme that seeks to give the impression that a civil war is close at hand in Syria as it coincided with the visit of the UN envoy Kofi Annan.
For his part, Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ministry, Dr. Jihad Makdissi, said “The report which came after three days is initial and the investigation is still underway as the massacre has political and criminal dimensions. The investigation faces difficulties due to the presence of gunmen in the area.”
”There are further details that were kept unannounced out of fear for the lives of the eyewitnesses. When the investigation ends, we will put the full conclusions to the international community, the UN Security Council and the UN observer mission,” added Makdissi.
Answering a question on whether the international community and the humanitarian and international bodies would be convinced on the findings of the initial investigation, Makdissi said ”It is a complicated matter to identify the international community, as part of the international community is hostile to Syria and has an agenda against it. What we care for is public opinion and the citizens who back the state because the state doesn’t commit such crimes and is in a state of self-defense as terrorists are being funded and armed.”
“It is a heinous crime that was condemned by the Syrian government for which we deny responsibility and stress that the Syrian army can never commit such a crime…The perpetrators sought to take revenge of a family of one of the People’s Assembly members, but events got out of hand and a larger massacre was perpetrated.”
Makdissi said that neither statements have not accused the Syrian army but hinted at other elements, adding that the Syrian army protects citizens.
In reply to a question on not engaging the observer mission in the investigation, Makdissi said ”It was the Syrian side who contacted the head of the mission, Robert Mood, who was sent by the Syrian Foreign Ministry…There were gunmen killed in the clash and moved to the village’s mosque and filmed for the massacre to appear larger. When the observers arrived, there was a flood of lies aired by media.”
Makdissi added that the Syrian government was acquitted of other massacres in Karm al-Zaitoun and Deir Baalbeh, adding that clues pertaining to the massacre are revealed.
”There is diligent work to incite sedition in Syria…There are 18 sects that have lived in harmony for years and the massacres are aimed at shattering this coexistence, but the Syrian fabric is impervious to sedition attempts,” added Makdissi.
Makdissi said that there are sides working day and night to ignite sectarian sedition; even after al-Houla massacre, they tried to attack another village but they did not succeed.
Makdissi pointed out that the world media focused on some massacres because they belong to a certain sect in Syria, adding that in Syria all Syrians are equal regardless of their sects.
Concerning Syrian ambassador and diplomats whose mission was ended in some western capitals, Makdissi said, “Ambassadors everywhere work to serve their countries’ interests. Recalling or expelling ambassadors is a political decision. We are dissatisfied because we built our diplomatic relations with whom we thought are our partners.”
He added that diplomatic transactions are based on reciprocity; however, Syria will not resort to malicious policies. Syria belives in diplomacy and dialogue as means to solve problems among states.
Makdissi stressed that about 200 media outlets are working in Syria in addition to 100 accredited media outlets, adding that there are no restrictions on the work of the media.
Asked about the coordination between the Syrian Investigation Committee and the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) team, Makdissi said the UNSMIS is not an investigation committee; it is tasked with observing and verifying.
He said, “We are telling the UNSMIS about the results of the investigation; we sent General Robert Mood to the massacre site, and we would like Annan to look at the reality of events in Syria through the eyes of the observers.”
M. Ismael /F.Allafi
BEIRUT, May 31 (Reuters) – Syria said on Thursday a preliminary investigation showed that anti-government armed groups carried out a massacre last week in Houla region with the aim of encouraging foreign military intervention against the government.
Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, head of the investigation committee formed by the government, said the victims were families “who refused to oppose the government and were at odds with the armed groups”.
He said that before the massacre, 600 to 800 armed men attacked posts of the security forces in the area while armed men from outside Houla murdered the families, adding that many of the victims were relatives of a member of parliament.
“The aim is to bring foreign military intervention against the country in any form and way,” he told reporters at a news conference in Damascus that was aired on television.
The massacre in Houla, in which 108 people were killed, was condemned around the world. Western powers expelled Syrian diplomats and Syrian rebels, aiming to topple President Bashar al-Assad, urged Kofi Annan to declare his seven-week-old ceasefire plan a failure.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Syria wanted the peace plan to succeed in ending the violence so the 14-month-old crisis could be resolved through political dialogue.
He also called on opposition groups that reject foreign intervention to come to Syria for talks with the government.
(Reporting by Mariam Karouny; Editing by Kevin Liffey)