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UN says, 'Syrian forces responsible for 8 massacres'

U.N. rights investigators have established that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for two massacres last May in which up to 450 civilians were killed, a report published on Wednesday said. The report documented eight mass killings in all, attributing all but one to government forces, but said both government and rebel fighters had committed war crimes including murder, hostage-taking and shelling of civilians in their battle for territory. The killings in Baida and Ras al-Nabaa, two pockets of rebel sympathisers surrounded by villages loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of the coastal town of Banias, sent a chilling message of the price to be paid for backing the rebels. The U.N. commission of inquiry has not been allowed into Syria, but its 20 investigators carried out 258 interviews with refugees, defectors and others, in the region and in Geneva, including via Skype, for their 11th report in two years.
In Baida, it said between 150 and 250 civilians had allegedly been killed, including 30 women, apparently executed, who were found in one house. It said armed rebels were not active in the area at the time.
"Testimonies were consistent that members of the National Defence Forces were actively involved in the raids and in many cases leading them," the report said.
"Accordingly, there are reasonable grounds to believe that government forces and affiliated militias including the National Defence Forces are the perpetrators of the al-Bayda (Baida) massacre."
The next day, as word spread that militia fighters were advancing with army support, hundreds of civilians tried to flee the neighbouring village of Ras al-Nabaa, but were pushed back at checkpoints. Government forces proceeded to shell the village and then militia fighters moved in.
"As they raided the village, civilians were captured and executed," the report said, adding: "The operation did not occur in the context of a military confrontation. Government forces were in full control of the area."
It gave a figure of 150-200 dead in Ras al-Nabaa.

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