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Satellite Pictures Back Up Houla Massacre Accounts
09/13/2015
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The US state department has published satellite photos said to show mass graves in Syria after government forces attacked civilian areas. A website operated by the department is displaying the photos, taken by a commercial satellite, of what it says are mass graves dug following a massacre near the town of Houla.

They also show apparent artillery impact craters near civilian areas of a town called Atarib.

The US says the pictures line up with images from the ground supplied by Syrian opposition forces that purport to show the people of Houla burying victims.

Included on the web page of humanrights.gov, run by the state department, are other pictures that apparently show artillery on 31 May nea ear three Syrian towns and attack helicopters near the towns of Shayrat and Homs. The Syrian regime has not issued a response to the photos.

More than 100 men, women and children were massacred in Houla on 25 May, most of them shot at point-blank range or slashed with knives. The UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the people who died from artillery and tank fire were clearly victims of government shelling while the others were most likely killed by shabbiha militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Damascus has blamed the massacre on the opposition – which Assad has tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing more than 10,000 people in the process according to the United Nations. Russia instead blames Islamist militants for the Houla massacre and has used its veto to stop the UN security council sanctioning Syria. The state department website highlights what it says are before and after satellite pictures showing mass graves near Houla. An 18 May photo from Tall Daww, a village near Houla, shows what the government says is a square that appears to be a flat dirt clearing. Juxtaposed against this is what the US government says is a 28 May photo of the same square that labels rows of newly turned-up earth as “probable newly dug graves/trenches”.

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