Row upon row of bloodied bodies wrapped in colorful blankets laid out on a mosque floor in a Damascus suburb. Long narrow graves tightly packed with dozens of victims. Nestled among them, two babies were wrapped in a single blood-soaked blanket, a yellow pacifier dangling beside them from a palm frond.
Video footage posted by activists showed lineups of corpses, many of them men with gunshot wounds to their heads. During mass burials on Sunday, bodies were sprayed with water from hoses — a substitute for the ritual washing prescribed by Islam in the face of so many dead.
The gruesome images appeared to expose the lengths to which the regime of President Bashar Assad was willing to go to put down the rebellion that first broke out in March last year.
The video footage and death toll were impossible to independently verify because of severe restrictions on media coverage of the conflict. However activists and residents have reported excessive use of force by the regime, with indiscriminate bombing from the air and ground.
"Daraya, a city of dignity, has paid a heavy price for demanding freedom," the Local Coordination Committees activist group said in a statement, adding that the Assad regime targeted residents with executions and revenge killings "regardless of whether they were men, women or children."
With a population of about 200,000, Daraya is part of "Rural Damascus," or Reef Damascus, a province that includes the capital's suburbs and farmland. It has been a stronghold of support for the rebels fighting the government since the start of the uprising, posing a particularly grave threat to Assad's seat of power.
Troops backed by tanks stormed the town on Thursday after a siege that lasted several days during which no one was allowed to enter or leave, activists and residents said. The rebels were no match for Assad's tanks and helicopter gunships.
Most of the killings, according to activists, took place Friday and Saturday. But the extent of the carnage only began to be revealed Sunday.
The Local Coordination Committees also reported 45 deaths Sunday and said 300 bodies were discovered a day earlier in Daraya, with a total of 633 people killed there since the government launched its assault. It said 1,755 people had been detained in Daraya, suggesting that hundreds more might turn up dead.
Video footage posted by the group showed rows of bodies wrapped in blood-soaked blankets, with date palms and tree branches strewn over them. Someone was shown spraying the bodies with a hose, a substitute for the ritual washing of the dead prescribed by Islam's teachings.
Another video posted on the Internet and dated Saturday showed dozens of bodies on the blood-splattered floor of a mosque. Pieces of paper were placed on some of them, presumably identifying them. The anonymous commentator, his voice choking, said there were at least 150 bodies there and blamed a pro-government militia known as shabiha for the killings.
A third video showed several dozen bodies, some in white shrouds, stacked next to each other in what appeared to be a courtyard of a mosque or a large home.
A photograph circulated by the Shaam News Network showed two babies, their pajama tops soaked in blood, wrapped in a blanket decorated with blue and white flowers. It said they were among dozens of victims buried Sunday in a mass grave.
A total of 213 people were killed in fighting Sunday, according to the Observatory.