An Alawite village in the central province of Hama was seized by Islamist fighters on Sunday, Reuters news agency reported, adding that the fighting was “part of an offensive to try to cut off supply routes from Damascus to the north of the country.”
The fighters, battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, allegedly killed 25 people in the village of Maan, mainly from a pro-Assad National Defense Force militia, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Authorities gave a different death count, saying the dead were mainly women and children and accused the fighters of committing a massacre on the eve of the resumption of peace talks in Geneva .
“This massacre isn’t the first,” Social Affairs Minister Kind al-Shamat told Syrian television, saying similar attacks had taken place during the nearly three-year conflict and been ignored by the outside world.
Residents of Maan, east of Syria's main north-south highway, are from the same Alawite minority as the Assad family which has ruled Syria for the last four decades. Rebels fighting to overthrow Assad are overwhelmingly from the country's Sunni Muslim majority, backed by Islamist and jihadi fighters from across the Islamic world.
“We feel the insistence of the international community, including those attending Geneva, to divert attention  to areas which are not suffering to the same extent as these regions,” Shamat said.
“Unfortunately we don’t hear condemnation from any international organization of these massacres taking place in these villages,” she added.
Video footage released on Sunday showed a rebel fighter performing Muslim prayers on top of a municipal building after the seizure of Maan, one of several sites in Hama targeted by the rebels in recent days. Another video showed the dead body of a pro-Assad fighter, according to Reuters.
Since March 2011, the violent episodes of unrest in Syria have claimed the lives of 130,000 people, including civilians, rebel fighters and Assad's forces.