BEIRUT — New details emerging Saturday about what local Syrian activists called a massacre of civilians near the central city of Hama indicated that it was more likely an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons.
The UN observers still on the ground in Syria sent a team to the village of Tremseh on Saturday to investigate what had happened, said Sausan Ghosheh, the spokesman for the monitors in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Their initial report said the attack appeared to target ‘‘specific groups and houses, mainly of army defectors and activists,’’ Ghosheh said in a statement. It said a range of weapons had been used, including artillery, mortars, and small arms.
The report seemed to indicate that some people had been killed at close range; it said there were pools of blood and blood spatters in several houses along with bullet cases. The team also found a burned school and damaged houses.
The number of casualties remains unclear, it said, but the UN team planned to return Sunday to continue investigating.
Before the UN team entered the town, a combination of videos, televised confessions of numerous captured fighters, and reports from activists outside the area all indicated that a battle Thursday between the military and local fighters in Tremseh, a village of 11,000 people about 22 miles northwest of the central city of Hama, resulted in a slaughter of rebel forces.
The videos that have emerged so far online, the source of much of the information on any fighting that is available outside Syria, have shown the victims to be young men of fighting age.
There were also new questions about the death toll, with initial figures from activists of more than 160 and other reports putting the toll at more than 200. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in Britain that has a network of contacts in Syria, said that it had been able to confirm only 103 names and that 90 percent of them were young men. There were no women’s names on the list of 103 victims obtained from activists in Homs.
An initial roster of 20 names published by the Syrian National Council, the main umbrella opposition group in exile, was mostly a list of men between 19 and 36, although it included the name of a 6-year-old boy. Activists from the area contacted Saturday stuck to the narrative that there had been a massacre in Tremseh.
In previous massacres, however, like the one in Houla in late May, there was an immediate synchronization between the long lists of civilian names, the gruesome videos of dead woman and children, as well as corroboration by UN observers who faulted the Syrian Army for using tank shells and other heavy weaponry against a civilian area. That is missing in the case of Tremseh.
Western leaders lined up to condemn the mass killings of civilians. Colonel Riad al-Asad, based in Turkey as the ostensible leader of the loose coalition of fighters called the Free Syrian Army, told the Arabic television network Al Jazeera Thursday that there had been no opposition fighters in the town.
Although what actually happened in Tremseh remains murky, the evidence available suggested that events Thursday more closely followed the Syrian government account. But Syrian officials colored that account with their usual terminology of blaming foreign terrorists for the violence.
The picture emerging is that there was a large group of fighters from the town and the local area bivouacked in Tremseh. The Syrian Army moved in early Thursday, blocking all exits and blasting away with machine guns, tank shells and rockets fired from helicopters, laying waste to the town.
‘‘Whenever the Syrian Army knows there are fighters concentrated in an area, they attack,’’ said Rami Abdul-Rahman, the observatory activist who collects statistics from a network in Syria. ‘‘The majority of people killed in Tremseh were either rebel fighters from the village or from surrounding villages.’’
Syrian state television paraded several captured fighters on television Saturday who said Tremseh had been a regional center of operations for the past 20 days. The captives said that 200 to 300 fighters had gathered there to plan attacks on checkpoints and other military targets.
State television also broadcast pictures of a roomful of weapons that it said had been captured from the town, the inventory mostly underscoring just what a crude and simple arsenal the opposition uses. It included 54 guns, nine rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 5,000 cartridges, 25 satellite telephones, and 24 mortars, the latter looking as if they had been welded by hand.