AMMAN - Syrian troops backed by armored vehicles on Sunday shot dead seven civilians when they overran a rebellious Sunni Muslim village west of the city of Hama, burning houses and arresting dozens of people, an activists' organization said.
Four women were among those killed in the village of Tamanaa in al-Ghab, a lush plain in the rural epicenter of the 14-month revolt against President Bashar Assad's rule, said the Syrian Network for Human Rights, an opposition activists' group monitoring the crackdown.
"The village was subjected to collective punishment. Over half of its houses were burnt. Several people were executed when they were arrested. The rest were killed from bombardment," a statement from the organization said.
Opposition activists said the Sunni Muslim village, one of dozens that have been torched since Assad's forces seized control of the cities of Homs and Hama, had been a flashpoint for regular demonstrations against Assad.
Its defiance had angered the inhabitants of a nearby Alawite village called al- Aziziyeh, a recruiting ground for a militia loyal to Assad known as shabbiha, which participated in a separate assault on Tamanaa on Friday, the activists said.
Tensions between the two villages had risen after militia men from al-Aziziyeh killed two youths in Tamanaa on Friday after opening fire on an anti-Assad demonstration there, local activists said.
Towns and villages in the region, which is mostly Sunni but has some Alawite areas, have also been giving shelter to Syrian Free Army rebels, who have been stepping up their guerilla attacks on the Alawite-led military.
Syria's Sunni majority is at the forefront of the uprising against Assad, whose sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.