UN observers confirmed [press release, PDF] Saturday that an attack on activists and army defectors in the Syrian village of Tremseh occurred on Thursday. The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) reported signs of military presence: "There were pools of blood and blood spatters in rooms of several homes together with bullet cases. The UN Team also observed a burned school and damaged houses with signs of internal burning in five of them. A wide range of weapons were used, including artillery, mortars and small arms." The observers did not report finding any bodies and stated that the casualty count is unclear at this time. Other reports indicate that there could be as many as 200 casualties [UN News Centre report]. The UNSMIS suspended its mission in June [JURIST report] but entered for a preliminary investigation on the Tremesh allegations after a ceasefire was announced, and will continue to investigate. After the UNSMIS produced evidence of the attack, which if perpetrated by the Syrian military would violate the UN peace plan [JURIST report], UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] contacted China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi [official profile] in the hopes that the nation can influence President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder] to fully comply with the peace plan. Ban decried [JURIST report] the latest attack on Friday and questioned al-Assad's commitment to the peace process. A spokesperson for Syria denied that a massacre occurred [BBC report], stating that armed clashes of low-level troops resulted in only 37 casualties. He alleged that the UN rushed to judgment of the situation.
Syria has been plagued with violence over the past year and a half, and human rights groups have blamed both the government and anti-government groups for the resulting deaths. Despite al-Assad agreeing to implement the peace plan, reports of violence continue. The attack on Tremesh happened on the same day video of unexploded cluster munitions found in the Hama region [JURIST report] was reported by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. Last week, HRW reported that Syrian authorities have been maintaining secret detention facilities [JURIST report] to hold and torture prisoners. Another group reported that forces use sexual assault as a weapon [JURIST report] in the conflict. The UN was urged to extend the UNSMIS mission [JURIST report] due to the continuous reports of violence in the nation.