Syria’s regime on Sunday denied its forces used tanks and helicopters in an assault on Tremsa, describing events in the central village as the result of clashes with rebels and not a “massacre” as has been widely reported in the international press.
“Government forces did not use helicopters and tanks,” foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus, adding: “What happened was not an attack by the army on innocent civilians.”
“The aim of this news conference is to tell people that what happened was not a massacre ... It was a clash between regular forces and armed groups who do not believe in a peaceful solution. This is the reality, politically and militarily.”
He said 37 militants and only two civilians were killed in Tremsa. Terrorists in Tremsa compelled the regime’s forces to enter the village, he added.
When asked about the defected general Mustafa Tlas, the official said that the general has left the country without the government’s permission, thus not acknowledging the defection.
Meanwhile, soon after Makdissi’s press conference, activists reported that about 40 people killed and 140 wounded after shelling on Deir al-Zour’s prison.
And in a related story, Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet Syrian mediator Kofi Annan on Tuesday in the hopes of giving a diplomatic boost to his tattered peace plan for the deadly crisis, the Kremlin said Sunday.
The Russian leader’s press service said the U.N.-Arab League envoy would arrive in Moscow on Monday and meet Putin the following day for talks in which “Russia will underscore its support the peace plan of Kofi Annan.”