BEIRUT — Syrian opposition activists said Sunday that government forces had killed at least 80 people in a town south of Damascus, and then carried out mass arrests as the residents tried to bury the bodies.
Residents in the town, Jdaidet al-Fadl, near Damascus, and activists described a three-day campaign in which soldiers from the army and loyalist militias systematically burned houses, arrested men, took over field hospitals and killed the wounded.
The state news agency SANA gave a somewhat different account: “Armed forces units inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists in the town of Jdaidet al-Fadl in the Damascus countryside, injuring a number of them and killing others.”
Neither version of events could be independently confirmed.
The town is near a military base along a corridor connecting the city of Daraa with two southern suburbs of Damascus — Daraya and Moadhamiya — that have been hotly contested. Rebels have hung on in the two suburbs through months of shelling and airstrikes.
Shamel al-Jolani, an activist who lives nearby, said area residents documented the names of 80 people who had been killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that tracks the conflict, said the victims included 71 men, three children and six women. It said 19 of the men were rebel fighters.
Al-Jolani said hundreds of people were arrested Sunday and taken to the military base.
There were new warnings Sunday that fighting in Syria could spill into Lebanon. Syrian rebels say that the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which supports the Assad government, has sent new forces across the border to the Syrian town of Qusayr in recent weeks.
Kidnappings on the rise
BEIRUT — Kidnappings of ordinary Syrians are rising at an alarming rate, a stark sign of the country’s spreading lawlessness after two years of war.
Both the opposition and Syrian security forces have been accused of abducting people, often for sectarian or political motives. But in recent months, kidnapping for ransom has increasingly become a criminal enterprise, observers say.
The first reported abductions in the conflict took place in the summer of 2011 involving Sunnis, many of whom support the opposition, and Alawites, who mostly support the government.
— The Washington Post