U.N. observers in Syria count more than 92 bodies in Houla carnage

U.N. observers in Syria count more than 92 bodies in Houla carnage

By | 2012-05-28T13:18:15+00:00 May 28th, 2012|Reports|0 Comments
The United Nations‘ observers in Syria on Saturday confirmed that more than 92 people, including dozens of children, were killed in what activists said was an artillery barrage by government forces in the town of Houla, in the province of Homs.
 
“This morning U.N. 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 U.N. 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.”
 
In a statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded “the Government of Syria immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers.”
 
Ban condemned the Houla carnage as “appalling and brutal” breach of international law.”
Britain said Saturday it was consulting urgently with its allies on “a strong international response.” 
 
“We will be calling for an urgent session of the UN Security Council in the coming days,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement after United Nations monitors confirmed reports of the killings in Houla.
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs.
 
Syrian state television aired some of the footage disseminated by activists, calling the bodies victims of a massacre committed by “terrorist” gangs. 
 
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.
 
A British-based opposition group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said residents of Houla were fleeing in fear of more shelling.
 
The reports of the carnage, which could not be confirmed independently, underlined how far Syria is from any negotiated path out of the 14-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
 
A member of the fragmented exile group that says it speaks for Syria’s political opposition said Assad’s forces had killed “entire families” in Houla in addition to the shelling.
 
“The Syrian National Council (SNC) urges the U.N. Security Council to call for an emergency meeting … and to determine the responsibility of the United Nations in the face of such mass killings,” SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani said.
 
Opposition activists said Syrian forces had opened fire with artillery on Friday after skirmishing with insurgents in Houla, a cluster of villages north of the city of Homs, itself battered by shelling.
 
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.
 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, has blamed the Syrian government for much of the “unacceptable levels of violence and abuses” occurring every day in violation of a U.N.-backed peace plan.
 
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban cited the government’s continuing use of heavy weapons, reports of shelling and “a stepped-up security crackdown by the authorities that has led to massive violations of human rights by government forces and pro-government militias.” 
 
Ban lamented that there has been only “small progress” on implementing the six-point plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, who is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Wednesday. 
 
Ban called on the government to keep its pledge to immediately stop the violence, pull heavy weapons and troops out of populated areas, allow humanitarian workers to help needy civilians and end human rights abuses.