Syrian bombardment of Hama kills 41

World powers express shock at "horrific" Syria massacre of more than 92 over the weekend; artillery barrage on town of Houla draws condemnation, calls for action from US, France, Arab League, UN secretary general.

By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
May 28, 2012 09:51
2 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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AMMAN - The Syrian army's bombardment of the city of Hama has killed at least 41 people in the past 24 hours, an opposition group in the city said on Monday.

Syrian tanks and infantry fighting vehicles opened fire on several neighborhoods of Hama on Sunday after a series of attacks by rebel Free Syrian Army fighters on roadblocks and other positions manned by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, opposition sources said.

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The dead included five women and eight children, the Hama Revolution leadership Council said in a statement.

The report could not be independently verified.

Over the weekend, multiple voices within the international community had 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.

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," the UN secretary general and special envoy said in a joint statement.

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 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.

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.

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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