The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad on Sunday denied the claims made by international envoy Kofi Annan that it had used artillery, tanks and helicopters in the town of Tremsa, where the opposition has reported the massacre of more than 200 people. Spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Jihad Makdissi said security forces had killed 37 fighters and two civilians in that village, which was used as a base by insurgents.
"Government forces did not use planes, no helicopters, no tanks or artillery. The heaviest weapon used was the RPG (launchers)," he said during a press conference in Damascus. "Yesterday we received a letter from Kofi Annan addressed to Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. The least we can say about this letter that it did not rely on facts regarding what happened in Tremsa. "In the most diplomatic language possible, we can say that this letter was written in great haste," stated the Syrian official.
He referred to statements made Saturday by a group of UN observers who visited Tremsa and confirmed the Syrian regime's version of the events. The UN Observers had said that the violence appeared to be due to attacks by rebels and opposition activists. Their report, however, also noted the use of artillery and mortars. A day earlier, the head of the UN observer mission had also said that helicopter gunships were used and that indiscriminate firing had taken place.
Jihad Makdissi said that the accusations of violent attacks were implausible given the small size of the village.
"Everything that was said about the use of heavy weapons in the attack on a village which is less than 100 hectares is completely untrue," Makdissi said, denying that the villagers were targeted. "We are in a state of self-defense, not on the offensive," he added.