Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Syria denies US allegations of 'depraved' mass executions at prison


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime denied the U.S. Department of State's accusation that it built a crematorium to hide mass prisoner executions.

Western monitors and watchdog groups say they have accumulated evidence of mass killings in Syrian government prisons, though there have not been any substantiated allegations so far of the use of a crematorium.

Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Gallant, a retired major general who led the Israel Defense Forces's southern command, which includes the Gaza Strip, pointed to USA allegations that the Assad regime built a crematorium at a prison outside Damascus to cover up mass murders.

He accused President Bashar Assad's government of sinking "to a new level of depravity".

Jones said the information came from credible humanitarian agencies and from the USA "intelligence community" and that as many as 50 people per day are thought to be hanged at Saydnaya.

"The last testimony for this report was in December 2015, but there is no reason to think the executions have stopped" at the prison, Waldman said in a phone interview in February.

Jones told reporters Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had raised concerns about Assad's brutality with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Washington last week.

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Monday's disclosures amount to a very public rebuke of Russian Federation, which surely must know of the mass atrocities being committed by its client state just as it knew about the existence of chemical weapons.

Israeli Minister Yoav Gallant said that it is "a clear and unequivocal statement" that "we want Assad to fall" and be replaced by a more moderate regime, after the United States announced the discovery of a crematorium in Syria.

Non government organizations and human rights groups have long asserted that the Assad regime has abducted and detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people between 2011-2015 as that nation's bloody civil war rages on.

Thousands of executed detainees have been dumped in mass graves in recent years, acting Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones said.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday evening on bipartisan legislation that would impose new sanctions on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for war crimes and human rights abuses against civilians, sources with the House Foreign Affairs Committee confirmed.

He said that newly de-classified documentation "underscore the depths to which the Syrian regime has gone, with the continuing support of its allies, Russian Federation and Iran". "And Russia must bear responsibility to ensure regime compliance".

The U.S. state department also released satellite footages, showing what it called a new building in the prison's complex that is apparently modified to support crematorium.

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