BEIRUT: The death toll after days of clashes in two Damascus suburbs could be up to 500 people, activists reported Monday.
At least 483 people have been killed in the southwestern suburbs of Jdeidet al-Fadl and Jdeidet al-Artouz, the Local Coordination Committees reported, as the army has attempted to reclaim control of rebel-held areas surrounding the capital over the last six days.
Labeling the attacks “massacres,” the LCC added that rebels had withdrawn, in order to protect civilians, but that the killing had continued.
Some were killed in summary executions, activists said, as well as those killed in shelling and fighting. Videos circulated online showed the bodies of people who had been shot in the face.
Regime forces arrested residents while they were trying to bury the dead, the LCC said, adding that there is a huge shortage of medicine and medical supplies in the areas.
Another activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, put the number nearer 250.
State media said that the “army inflicted heavy losses upon terrorists in the town of Jdeidet al-Fadl.”
The LCC demanded that the U.N. Security Council refer the attacks to the International Criminal Court, in a statement posted on its Facebook group Monday.
The clashes outside the capital came as the Syrian opposition called on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from Syria.
The statement coincided with fierce fighting near the Lebanese border, a battle in which activists say the army is being heavily support by combatants from Hezbollah. Regime forces are trying to advance on the rebel stronghold town of Al-Qusair in Homs Province, very near the border.
Shelling continued across the country Monday, and by mid-afternoon at least 43 people had been killed, the LCC reported.
On Sunday, rebels opened fire on a bus coming from a mainly Alawi area of the Damascus suburbs – Ish al-Warwar – the Observatory reported, killing seven civilians, including one woman and one child.
Also Monday, Iran said that it wants Assad to stay on and contest the presidential election scheduled for next year.
A visiting senior Iranian envoy said in Damascus Monday that "We think the best scenario is for Mr Assad to remain president of the republic until the summer of 2014,” according to AFP.
Aladin Borujerdi, head of parliament's national security and foreign affairs commission, added, “After that, free elections will be held and the Syrian people can express themselves and decide on their future," after meeting with Assad.
He criticized neighboring countries which support rebels fighting to oust Assad, charging they were "seeking to deepen dissent and the crisis" in Syria.
Such countries, which he did not name, "must know that this crisis will end sooner or later and then only the bad policies of these states will stay behind in the memory of the Syrian people," said Borujerdi. – With agencies