Makdissi : What happened in al-Treimseh a military operation between the army and gunmen who terrorized civilians
DAMASCUS_ Foreign and Expatriates Ministry spokeman, Dr. Jihad Makdissi, stressed what happened in al-Treimseh village in the countryside of Hama province was not a massacre but a military operation and armed clashes between the army forces and armed groups that do not believe in dialogue or the political solution.
In a press conference held on Sunday, Makdissi said the army forces did not use any heavy weapons upon entering the village in response to the resident's pleads, adding that damage due to the clash was caused to only five buildings in which the terrorists were positioned along with their weapons.
Makdissi: Annan's Letter Is Hasty and Not Based on Reality
He referred to a letter received by Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem form the UN envoy Kofi Annan regarding the events in al-Treimseh, which Makdissi described as "hasty to the furthest extent" and not based on the reality of what happened in the village.
The spokesman said that al-Moallem for his part sent a reply letter to Annan which included general points in relation to what happened and asked for the letter to be circulated to the Security Council's Head and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Makdissi added that the letter read that armed terrorist groups overran the village, were stationed in it, terrorized the citizens and set up leadership bases, weapons storehouses and places for torturing the kidnapped and launched attacks against a number of law enforcement forces points on the outskirts of the village, "which necessitated response and clashes."
Makdissi noted that al-Treimseh is a small village of 1 km2, dismissing tendentious media claims that the army used 150 tanks in such a narrow space as "belittling of people's minds".
He explained that "the army and law enforcement forces had entered al-Treimseh last January in response to pleads by the residents and departed with honor after consolidating security in it."
"Some people in the village who are from the opposition intellectually or who are dissatisfied with the crisis in Syria rejected to be seized by terrorist groups with weapons storehouses and dens to abduct and torture people and take any demands off the track," Makdissi added.
"However, the armed groups," Makdissi continued, "again took hold of the village partially before taking full control of it to later establish weapons storehouses and turn the village into a base for terrorist acts and launching attacks against the army and law enforcement centers and the neighboring villages."
The Foreign Ministry spokesman affirmed that the clashes with the gunmen inside al-Treimseh lasted only a few hours, reiterating that only five buildings were exposed to fire and that the army forces did not use any aircrafts, helicopters, tanks or artillery.
Talk on Using Heavy Weapons to Attack a 1 km2 Village "Totally Baseless"
Makdissi dismissed all talk on heavy weapons used to attack a 1 km2 village as "totally baseless", stressing that only light weapons were used, the heaviest among them were RPG launchers, in addition to BMP carriers that are not tanks.
"The timing of claims on the use of heavy weapons is related to what is going on and the debate underway at the Security Council because they want an additional vitamin to get the better of the Russian prudent endeavors at the Council," said Makdissi.
He made it clear that "what really happened was not an army attack on safe civilians but a military operation and armed clashes the army and law enforcement forces that are responsible according to the constitution for the protection of citizens and between well armed terrorist groups that believe in abduction, terrorism, killing and bombing and don't believe in the political solution."
He added that those groups have discarded all the initiatives sponsored by Annan to establish calm and move ahead with the political solution in Syria.
Makdissi said that the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), including civilian and military experts, headed to the site with 11 vehicles and entered al-Treimseh village and are going back to the area today once again.
"Had it been a massacre, or had it not been a matter of defending the citizens and confronting armed groups that don't believe in the political solution, we wouldn't have allowed the mission to go there," added Makdissi.
He referred to the statement of the UNSMIS spokesperson in which she said that the operation carried out by the Syrian Army seemingly targeted deserters' houses and places for armed opposition members, and that the observers will return to the village on Sunday to continue their observations and investigations.
Makdissi said that "this affirms the credibility of the Syrian story that the damage in the village was caused to five buildings only which were used as bases for the armed groups' attacks against the army forces, and as storehouses for highly sophisticated weapons as well as hideouts for torturing and killing the kidnapped."
Makdissi indicated to articles published by New York Times and the French News Agency (AFP) in addition to the statements made by the UN observers, which all confirm that the clashes took place between the army forces and armed groups.
He said that the seized weapons included 45 machineguns, 13 Nato sniper rifles, 9 RPG launchers, 7 BKC machineguns, 3 mortars, 3 hand-made rockets, 14 pump-action rifles, 10 military pistols, 24 mortar shells, 32 RPG shells, 53 machinegun chargers, 30 sniper rifle chargers, 8 explosive devices, 10 grenades, 150 detonators, 1500 sniper rifle bullets, 5000 BKC machinegun bullets, 4200 machinegun bullets, 500 pistol bullets, 7 gas masks, 5 prism binoculars, 25 satellite wireless devices, 30 shields, in addition to materials for making explosive devices, explosives and large amounts of gunpowder, TNT templates, highly explosive C4 material, a field hospital and an amount of military equipment, stolen cars and registration licenses.
37 Gunmen and 2 Civilians Were Killed in the Operation
He added that 37 gunmen and 2 civilians were killed in the operation according to reliable sources and "the testimony of a venerable man who participated in burying the dead," abstaining from naming the man because of fear for his life to be claimed by what he called "freedom's advocates".
Makdissi said that the majority of people are still noble while the minority are those who provide cover for those who defy the state and refuse the political solution.
He noted that the bodies which were filmed and broadcast belong to bearded men whose salafi affiliations are known.
"Whoever takes up arms against the state of those who do not believe in the political solution will be in confrontation with the army, while Syria's doors are open to those who believe in the political solution and dialogue without any prohibitions," said Makdissi.
"All that we want is faith in this homeland." He added.
10500 Documented Violations of Annan's Plan by Terrorist Groups
Makdissi pointed out that the number of documented violations of Annan's plan that have been committed by the armed terrorist groups reached 10500, affirming that Syria sends daily to Anna a detailed letter on when and where these violations took place and the number of civilians and military members martyred due to them as well as how they can be verified.
Asked on whether the governmental forces accompanied the UN observer delegation who went to al-Treimseh, Makdissi said that "we reached an agreement with the observers which provides for our responsibility for their protection at their headquarters and during their tours, but whenever they wanted to enter an area that is hot, we would warn them of that and tell them that it is controlled by the gunmen and it would be their responsibility if they decided to enter it, and that is how they entered the village."
Regarding the opposition's escalation and attack on Annan, Makdissi said "Had the opposition had faith in the political solution, it would have joined all the initiatives launched for dialogue, whether the Russian or the Chinese initiatives which we agreed on, but it discarded all the initiatives, which is a boyish behavior when dealing with a homeland's file."
He added that "We are not surprised at the opposition's doubting of the credibility of Annan, which the success of whose six-point plan on easing the tension and violence and shifting to the stage of the political solution led by the Syrians serves our interest."
"We wish Annan success," Makdissi said, adding that it is natural that in the process of any political diplomatic work that wrong information or misunderstanding would occur, " and that is why we have a national committee with full authorization with no bureaucracy that regularly meets with the UNSMIS to overcome obstacles and look into means of pushing Annan's plan forward."
On the continued booby-trapped car explosions targeting some areas, Makdissi said that ensuring full security under such a crisis is not possible, citing as examples some countries with high intelligence, economic and financial capabilities which nevertheless could not prevent tragic events such as September 11th in New York or the July 7th in London.
"This however does not justify the existence of terrorism and we are exerting all efforts possible to prevent it 100 out of 100," he added.
Combating Terrorism Is an International Collective Effort
Makdissi stressed that combating terrorism is an international collective effort and it cannot be achieved individually when there are countries that openly fund, shelter and host terrorists.
He added that "the state is constitutionally responsible for protecting the country, fostering dialogue and reaching out hand to citizens notwithstanding they might have been misled, or involved in carrying weapons or pushed.
"Although we are living in a world that is unfair, we should continue working for our homeland, and our weapon in this is the people's unity around the leadership's wisdom and the reality of the situation on ground," Makdissi added.
On the UN Secretary General's statements asking China to pressure on Syria, Makdissi said "Ban Ki-moon is the UN Secretary General with whom all international pressures rest, so it is natural that his statements would be unfriendly and not based on the reality."
"However, what matters is the Security Council where we have allies and friends and we also have an international public opinion that work as much as possible to alleviate these sharp stances through shedding light on the reality of our situation, in addition to sending the UN mission to all places," Makdissi continued, adding that" after all, if things do not reflect reality that is because we live in an unjust world."
On Brig. Gen. Munaf Tlas's going out from Syria, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said "The legal situation of Gen. Tlas is that he is an officer in the Syrian Arab Army who chose to leave the country without permission and who knows that the motto of the Syrian Arab Army is "Homeland, Honor, Loyalty", and I cannot speak on his behalf or about his political viewpoints."
Makdissi denied what has been attributed to him regarding the Palestinians living in Syria as "completely untrue", explaining that what he has said on his personal profile on the net was that "the Syrian law should be respected by all the Syrians before the guests" and that "the country's security is a red line".
He added that he asked not to offend any nationality not meaning the Palestinian nationality in particular which he described as "part of the Syrian national fabric".
Makdissi said that he was referring to an issue related to arresting groups of different Arab nationalities including militants or members who make explosive devices and bombs and booby trap cars.
"I am not surprised that some interpret what I did not even say, but all respect to all," said Makdissi, adding that most of the Arabs visiting Syria are honest people who believe in the Syrian homeland, being their secure shelter.