Int'l outcry over Syria massacre; more than 92 dead

Artillery barrage on town of Houla draws condemnation, calls for action from US, UK, France; UN secretary general, special envoy to Syria: Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
May 27, 2012 00:45
3 minute read.
Bodies anti-gov't protesters say gov't killed

Bodies anti-gov't protesters say were killed by gov't 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Multiple voices within the international community condemned Saturday the killing of over 92 people and the wounding of hundreds more in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs.

Activists said there was an artillery barrage by government forces, in the worst violence since the start of a UN peace plan to slow the flow of blood in Syria's uprising.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms."

"This appalling and brutal crime involving indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is a flagrant violation of international law and of the commitments of the Syrian government to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers and violence in all its forms. Those responsible for perpetrating this crime must be held to account," the UN secretary general and special envoy said in a joint statement.

They demanded "the government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers," and extended their sympathies to the families of the victims and to the wounded.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned the attack.

"Those who perpetrated this atrocity must be identified and held to account," she said in a statement. "And the United States will work with the international community to intensify our pressure on Assad and his cronies, whose rule by murder and fear must come to an end."



The bloodied bodies of children, some with their skulls split open, were shown in footage posted to YouTube purporting to show the victims of the shelling in the central town of Houla on Friday. The sound of wailing filled the room.

The carnage underlined just how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad.

"This morning UN military and civilian observers went to Houla and counted more than 32 children under the age of 10 and over 60 adults killed," the head of UN team monitoring the ceasefire - which has yet to take hold - said.

"The observers confirmed from examination of ordinances the use of artillery tank shells," Major General Robert Mood said in a statement, without elaborating. "Whoever started, whoever responded and whoever carried out this deplorable act of violence should be held responsible."

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Activists said Assad's forces shelled the town of Houla on Friday evening after security forces killed a protester and following skirmishes between troops and fighters from the Sunni Muslim-led insurgency fighting Syria's rulers, who belong to the minority Alawite sect.

A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Houla residents fled, fearing more shelling. It said one person was killed in the northern town of Saraqeb when troops fired on a protest against the killing.

Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists after the killing in Houla, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by "terrorist" gangs.

It also showed video of bodies with what looked like gunshot wounds to the head, sprawled on bloodstained mattresses.

Activists distributed footage appearing to show protests in Aleppo, the largest city in the north.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence as a "massacre", and said he wanted to arrange a meeting in Paris of the Friends of Syria, a group that brings together Western and Arab countries keen to remove Assad.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was coordinating a "strong response" to the killings and would call for the Security Council to meet in the coming days.

In a statement, Arab League head Nabil Elaraby called the killing in Houla a "horrific crime", urging the UN Security Council - where Russia and China have protected Syria - to "stop the escalation of killing and violence by armed gangs and government military forces."

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