"A cleric received a warning call shortly before the attack. ‘Leave, or you will all be killed’, he was told."
Mona (not her real name), 22, is a student at Homs University. She lives minutes away from New Clock Square, where the video was filmed.
The attack occurred around 2am. I was asleep, but the sound of gunfire woke everyone in the house. It was so loud, like a thunderstorm of bullets. Although we couldn’t go out (we would have been killed), I heard exactly what had happened from three different people, friends and relatives, who were present at the demonstration.
That day, the protesters were happy because for once, the authorities hadn’t stopped them from gathering, and thousands of people had successfully rallied in New Clock Square. There were women as well as men, people brought food, blankets and mattresses, they were determined to launch a long-term sit-in with rotating shifts.
After nightfall most people left the square, only a couple of thousand remained. They didn’t know that snipers were posted on rooftops all around them [according to our second Observer, more were hiding in a nearby cinema].
Shortly beofre the attack, a religious leader who is very well-liked and respected among the protesters [our second Observer identified him as Sheikh Sahl Junaid] received a warning call. ‘Leave, or you will all be killed’, he was told. The cleric grabbed a loudspeaker and called on the protesters to evacuate the square. He told the crowd: ‘You are like my sons and I love you’, but the protesters grew angry. They thought he was abandoning them. A guy jumped up and took the speakers, encouraging the people to stay. The Sheikh shouted: “They will kill us all!” A few minutes later, the snipers began opening fire from all sides.
My relative told me another thing: as the protesters were running away, men in trucks drove up to them and said ‘quick, jump in! Take cover in the trucks!’ Many did, but in fact the trucks were driven by more secret service men, and those who got into the trucks were kidnapped and beaten. Some came back after several days, but many were killed. [Our second Observer also reported protesters being taken away in trucks, but this could not be independently verified]."