Reporting from Beirut — A mass grave allegedly filled with the bodies of as many as 40 antigovernment protesters killed by Syrian forces was discovered Monday near the southern city of Dara, where an uprising began two months ago, according to activists and accounts from others.
Video posted to the Internet showed men wearing protective gear and operating backhoes digging up bodies in an area called Zemla Mohammad Sari Hill, southeast of Dara. The dead included women and children. Some of the video was gruesome, showing mangled, decomposing and half-clothed corpses.
Inspired by uprisings throughout the Arab world, Dara residents took to the streets after the detention and alleged torture in March of a group of teenagers accused of writing political graffiti. The unrest spread throughout the country, which has long been ruled by President Bashar Assad and a clique of relatives who dominate politics, the economy and security forces. The 4th Armored Division, led by Assad's brother Maher, laid siege to Dara, firing from tanks and arresting people in house-to-house raids.
The alleged mass grave will probably intensify international attention on the Assad regime at a time when Western diplomats are seeking ways to apply pressure because of its alleged human rights violations. Activists said the bodies included those identified by relatives as Abdulrazaq Abdulaziz Abazeid and four of his children, who disappeared in the recent wave of protests against the Assad family's 41-year rule.