“To carry out this kind of murder, to shamefully murder 50 innocent children, 110 innocent civilians, while the United Nations monitors are carrying out their mission in Syria … is torture, it is wretched,” Erdoğan told a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Such a massacre occurring while UN monitors are present in Syria is “defying and mocking” the international community, Erdoğan said.
“There is also a limit to patience, and I believe that, God willing, there is also a limit to the patience in the UN Security Council,” the prime minister said. “This is raving, abandoning sensibility and consciousness. This inhumane massacre amounts to trampling on all the values that make us human,” he stated. He also censured domestic critics of his government’s Syria policy, commenting that some political parties and nongovernmental organizations in Turkey “side with the oppressors” in neighboring Syria, adding: “Tolerating oppression amounts to oppression itself. Those who act with the oppressors are oppressors themselves.”
The Syrian regime has denied responsibility for the massacre, blaming opposition fighters. The UN has said fewer than 20 of the 108 people confirmed as having been killed in the massacre died from artillery and tank fire, with the majority of the remaining 88 shot in their homes by shabbiha, or pro-government militias, from a nearby village.
In related developments, Syrian insurgents killed 20 soldiers in heavy fighting around a northern Syrian town close to the border with Turkey, opposition sources said on Tuesday. The sources said six civilians and six rebels, including two rebel commanders, have also been killed in the past 24 hours, after the army launched an offensive with tanks and helicopters to retake the region around Atareb in Aleppo province, 18 kilometers east of the Turkish border.
Most of the soldiers were killed when rebels attacked a column of armored vehicles and pickup trucks carrying shabbiha en route to Atareb from an army base to the east of the town, the opposition said.
“Four tanks and armored vehicles were hit. At least ten troops were captured,” said Ahmad Kinan, an opposition activist in contact with the rebels.
Another opposition source said rebels, who are lightly armored and operate mostly at night to evade army helicopters, withdrew from Atareb at dawn, but that the army continued to shell the town, destroying dozens of houses and other buildings.
The town is located on the road to the main crossing point with Turkey and is also 35 kilometers from the city of Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and industrial hub.