(NEW YORK) — Damascus pushed back Sunday on claims that its military used heavy artillery last week in the village of Tremesh that activists allege led to the biggest massacre of Syrians in the 16-month conflict with rebels.
According to Syrian officials, 37 people were killed in small arms clashes with its government forces.
This assertion differs greatly from reports of at least 200 fatalities in Tremesh, many supposedly coming from a barrage of attack helicopters, aircraft and armored tanks.
A spokesman for Syria’s foreign military said Sunday, “It was not a massacre but a response by regular military forces against heavily armed groups that do not want a political solution,” while accusing the United Nations, special envoy Kofi Annan and the Arab League of rushing to judgment about what occurred in the village before all the facts were in.
Meanwhile, U.N. observers are again assessing the situation in Tremesh to determine the exact number of deaths and who was responsible for the alleged massacre.
It took the monitors more than 48 hours to make their first evaluation of what might have happened in Tremesh, ascertaining that rebels and defectors were mostly targeted.
Witnesses and activists maintain that the Syrian army first bombarded the village before pro-government shabiha militiamen went in and launched an indiscriminate killing spree.
In other developments Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared the situation in Syria has descended into a civil war because of the widespread throughout the country.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Joe Sterling and Darran Simon, CNN
Ray Sanchez, Zayn Nabbi, Euan McKirdy and Angela Dewan, CNN
Samantha Beech, CNN
Eliza Mackintosh, CNN