Ter Maala Massacre

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On October 15, 2015, opposition sources reported that Syrian and/or Russian airstrikes killed about 60 people, mostly civlians and half of those women and children, in Ter Maala, Homs Province, as they hid in a bomb shelter. Pro-government sources claimed instead the civilians were killed by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, in order to blame the government/Russian offensive.


Ter Maala (Arabic: تير معلة ) is a smaller town just north of Homs city (here on Wikimapia). It's currently on the southern edge of an ongoing government push to reclaim the Rastan pocket held by opposition forces (see October 15 Homs situation map). Recent offensives have pushed in on both sides to the north, as if to isolate Tar Maala in advance of an offensive there.

Second Massacre?

Two days later (the 17th, Saturday), activists told Al Jazeera, another Russian air strike killed another batch of civilians in Ter Maala, again hiding in a bomb shelter, including 48 members of a single unnamed family. The previous strikes allegedly killed 37 members of a single family, Assaf. but this sounds like a second family in a second incident. It's repeated aound by, for example, Russia Herald as "Russian missiles kill entire 48-member family in Syria."

The bomb shelter where the family was hiding was hit by a rocket on Saturday, activists told Al Jazeera on Sunday. Rescue teams spent over 10 hours trying to recover the bodies of the victims, Al Jazeera was told.
Abu Abbas, a survivor, said the majority of the casualties were children. "The eldest of the victims is a 70-year-old woman; the youngest was a one-month-old child," Abu Abbas said. "They were not terrorists as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin said."

However, it's not a supported claim. The SOHR reported on the 17th that, by their sources:

The Russian warplanes re-struck the outskirts of the city of Talbisah, the village of Om Sharshouh and the town of Ghanto north of Homs, no information about casualties, and amid ongoing clashes between the regime forces and allied militiamen against the rebel and Islamist factions around the Hosh Hajjo, Terma’lah and outskirts of the city of Talbisah north of Homs leading to kill a fighter in the Islamist factions. In addition, the rebel and Islamist factions targeted regime firces [sic] groups on the outskirts of the village of Terma’lah, information reported casualties.
A man from al- Hulah area north of Homs killed due to the regime forces shelling on the area.

As of the 20th VDC lists one Homs bombing death on the 17th, in Palmyra, and only 3 on the 18th, if in the right area query). No victim from Houla is listed. The SOHR issued another report on the 18th that said "the 4 civilians who were killed yesterday in the airstrikes carried out by warplanes, believed to be the Russian’s, on the town of al- Ghanto are the medial (staff) in the town." Still no word about a family of 48 killed.

An extra detailed report from the 18th is headed "Russian occupation commits a massacre in Homs 17-10-2015" and claims a massacre of 43 members of a family. But despite the headline, by this it seems they refer to the events of the 15th. Asharq al-Arabi (Arabic, auto-translated with repairs)

Details of the massacre at the shelter by Russian warplanes missiles in rural Homs ... Documented field hospitals in the countryside North of Homs governorate, killing forty-three people from the same family in the town of alghanto North of Homs countryside. By targeting Russian warplanes with missiles on Thursday, features vacuum bombing ... sophisticated missiles capable of penetrating a

consecutive large fortifications, causing severe damage.

According to sources on the ground have seen bombing that the first missile destroyed the two-storey building with the second missile destroyed the bunker beneath the building. ... This, if anything, it shows already and the determination to implement the massacre, the sanctuary is known to all that the place where civilians congregate, especially women and children, at the time of the bombardment aviation and throw explosive barrels ... The recording showed the media bulletin photographer Imran Ali, a certificate for a survivor of the massacre, which killed a large number of family members inside the sanctuary.

While measurements for the shelter are given, the family is not. But dying in large numbers, in a shelter in al-Ghanto on the 15th, makes it fairly clear they now say 43 or even 48 members of this one "Assaf" family died in that shelter.


Terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra perpetrated a massacre in Teirmaal village in Homs northern countryside on Thursday. A military source told SANA that terrorists committed their crime at 7:00 am in synchronization of the army operations in the area, adding that the act aimed at accusing the Syrian Army and the Russian air force of targeting civilians. "The Syrian Ministry of Defense stresses that the Syrian Army and the Russian air force do not target civilian-populated areas and holds Jabhat al-Nusra and its associates full responsibility for such crimes,” the source said.
Al-Mayadeen TV said the operations in Homs are still ongoing, adding that the troops succeeded in capturing several towns and villages. It said the military offensive in Homs aims at restoring the rebel bastions of Talbiseh and Rastan as well as al-Hulleh and other towns, which have for long been major stronghold of the insurgents.
The Observatory (SOHR), however, accused the Syrian forces of killing 60 people, including 17 rebels, in the Homs offensive, while the state news agency SANA said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front committed the massacre to frame the Syrian army.
About twenty people, mostly children were killed in the bombing of a violent attack by Russian aviation on several areas of the northern countryside of Homs ... Al-Jazeera correspondent in Homs said the dead and wounded were killed after Russian raids which targeted a number of the armed opposition sites and lines Tmasha with the forces of order. The correspondent added that Russian warplanes carried out more than twenty raid on several cities and towns of the northern countryside of Homs, including Maaleh Terre raids that targeted ten and fell in eight people dead, and Talbiseh and Al-Ghantu and Granada.
Cham network (Shaam News Network?) said that the Russian aviation raids came in conjunction with artillery and missile forces system targeted towns and villages in the northern countryside of Homs, in order to secure air cover for the regime forces to storm the area. In conjunction with the Russian raids, the system army announced the start of a ground operation to restore these areas under the control of the armed opposition, which launched an attack on Terre Maaleh camp kings (?) and Sncel (?). Cham said that the network system forces are trying to progress since the morning hours on the axis of Terre Maaleh and Talbiseh, amid violent clashes with armed opposition forces in the southern and western region of Talbiseh.
A resident of Talbiseh said four civilians had been killed there and that a school was hit at around 6 a.m., before classes started. He said jets were still flying in the area.
Responding to the reports of civilian deaths, the Syrian military source said Syrian forces and Russian jets do not target areas where civilians are present. He accused al Qaeda's wing in Syria, the Nusra Front, of carrying out a massacre on Thursday so it could blame the deaths on the bombardment.
  • According to Syrian Perspective, at 7 am Al Nusra lined up and killed 40 fighting age males who were not willing to fight with them and/or accused of collaboration with the government. Later, he says, "the army did get its revenge", naming four names and saying another 50+ "have not been identified".
In Homs, scores of people, including women and children, were also reportedly killed after Russian forces bombed many towns and villages, Al Jazeera's Jalal Abu Sulaiman, reporting from the central Syrian province, said.

(note: Jalal is a familiar face to ACLOS, running the Houla Media Office back in 2012, helping to promote the now-debunked opposition version of the Houla Massacre.)

He also said that one of the raids struck a place of refuge for civilians in the town of al-Ghantu, "killing 37 people - all from the al-Assaf family".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said on Thursday the Russian air strikes hit targets around the town of Talbiseh, Rastan and the villages of Teir Malla, Dar Kabira and Khalidiya, a few miles north of the mainly government-held city of Homs. It said government forces and fighters from Lebanon's Shia armed group Hezbollah were involved in the assault.

Activists told Al Jazeera at least 14 civilians were killed in air strikes that targeted an internally displaced shelter in Teir Malla.
  • Al-Bawaba cites SNC head Khaled Khoja saying from Turkey (or actually New York at the moment for a UN meeting) that Russian strikes had killed 36 civilians (later noted including 5 children). The report contrasts Russian claims to have "struck positions in Syria associated with the Daesh militant group" with
Khoja, however ... said areas targeted by the airstrikes were free of any Daesh or Al-Qaeda presence. “The targeted areas in today’s Russian air raid in Homs were those areas which fought ISIL [Daesh] and defeated it a year ago,” he said ... “All the targets in today’s Russian air raid over northern Homs were civilians,” Khoja declared via Twitter.

SOHR reports

  • 11 dead: "Rose to 11 including a child, the number of civilians who were killed by Russia airstrikes on Ter Maala in the northern countryside"
It rose to 42, including 25 citizen women and a child and several fighters from the rebel and Islamic factions the number of persons who the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights managed to document their death as a result of the massacre carried out by the warplanes and the regime forces ... the number of deaths is likely to rise because the information about deaths we weren’t able to document yet, ...
...also shells launched by the regime forces landed on areas in al-Wa’er neighborhood in Homs, while the warplanes bombed places in the villages of Hbub al-Rih and al-Halmuz in the northern countryside of Homs, while areas in the towns of Snisil and Jwalek in the countryside of Homs were bombed by the helicopters, while the regime forces bombed areas on the outskirts of the town of Al-Ghantu in the northern countryside of Homs, the regime forces also opened fire of heavy machineguns on areas in the town of al-Sa’en al-Aswad, they also bombed areas in the city of Talbiseh and areas in the road between Talbiseh city and the village of Al-Ghantu in the northern countryside of Homs which caused injuries, while the rebel and Islamic factions targeted areas in the village of Qenniyyet al-Asi in the countryside of Homs, while 4 members of the regime forces -two of them are colonels- were killed during the bombardment and clashes against the rebel and Islamic Factions in the northern countryside of Homs, and information about more casualties in the ranks of the regime forces during the same clashes.
Homs province: Rose to 60 the number of people who were killed by Russian airstrikes and regime’s bombardment which targeted areas of the northern countryside, the dead included 30 children and women in addition 17 rebels, the number of the dead is likely to rise because of the serious injuries. Russian warplanes targeted al-Gento and Talbisa with 4 airstrikes amid violent clashes between regime forces and Islamic battalions around Talbisa and Khnefes checkpoints. IS executed and beheaded a man in the eastern countryside for ” Magic ” .

VDC Records

The Center for Documentation of Violations (VDC) lists a total of 71 "martyrs" killed in Homs by warplane shelling, October 15 and 16. (it's still rising, was 63 hours earlier) Exactly one is listed as non-civilian, defected Captain Raead al-Aksah.

70 are listed as civilians. These include: 33 Adult males, 13 adult females, 13 boys, 12 girls. They hail mainly from Tairmaaleh , Ghantto, with some from Telbeiseh and Zafarana. There are not many names that repeat much; Steif is second highest with 6 entries. But half the list is people named Assaf, 35 total, not including maiden name wives of families. These are, unusually, 10 men, 7 women, 8 boys, and 10 girls (of 12 total).

43 share the exact note "A massacre of a number of families due to Russian warplanes targeted a shelter in Ghantto town." Another 12 have blame "a massacre by the Russian warplanes shelling targeted crowd of civilians near a bakery," and all 71 have notes including "Russia."


VDC Generic Videos attached to victim entries (all could be geolocated):

شام ريف حمص الغنطو مجزرة بشعة يرتكبها طيران العدو الروسي في البلدة 15 10 2015 تحذير الفيديو قاسي(Cham Homs Al-Ghantu ugly massacre committed by Russian aviation enemy in the town 1510 2015 Video harsh warning 18+) Uploaded by Shaam News Network, October 15, 2015 (no later than 3:11 pm in Syria)
Analysis included here: one victim may have been killed with a sword strike to the head, or shelling, both are almost totally naked, one at least seems too old to have died that day.
(Cham Homs explosive barrels heavy shelling targeted the town of Al-Ghantu 1510 2015) - Shows the frame of a large unfinished triangle shaped structure in the northeastern part of al-Ghantoo, a smaller village a few km north of Ter Maela.
Syrian news footage

Military situation