The U.S. condemned acts by government forces of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad after “credible” reports of the killing of more than 90 people in Houla, “including stabbing and ax attacks on women and children,” according to a White House statement.
France and the U.K. urged increased international support after the May 25 violence in Houla, a town in Homs province. Government forces killed more than 32 children under the age of 10 and more than 60 adults, according to UN mission head General Robert Mood, who cited United Nations military and civilian observers who viewed the bodies. The observers confirmed the use of artillery and tank shells fired at a residential neighborhood in an attack that Mood called a “brutal tragedy.”
“These acts serve as a vile testament to an illegitimate regime that responds to peaceful political protest with unspeakable and inhuman brutality,” said Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council. The U.S. is “horrified” by the killings, she said.
A further 56 people were killed in Syria yesterday, Al Jazeera television reported, citing activists. Al Jazeera showed street demonstrations in Syria yesterday protesting the killings, which also were condemned by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. The United Arab Emirates called for a meeting of the Arab League to discuss the attack, the state-run news agency WAM reported, citing foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“We stand in solidarity with the Syrian people and the peaceful marchers in cities across Syria who have taken to the streets to denounce the massacre,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an e-mailed statement.
The international community must stop the “martyrdom of the Syrian people,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called Syria’s acts “an appalling crime” and said the U.K. would be calling for an “urgent” meeting of the UN Security Council.
The killing hasn’t stopped since Assad agreed to a peace plan by UN special envoy Kofi Annan two months ago. His forces have killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011 when protests began as part of the wave of uprisings in the Middle East, according to a UN estimate in late March.
“This indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force is unacceptable and unforgiveable,” UN’s Mood said. “The killing of innocent children and civilians needs to stop.”
While there has been “some reduction in the intensity of fighting” in areas of Syria where there are UN observers, “the overall level of violence in the country remains quite high” and the Syrian government isn’t implementing the UN peace plan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report last week.
Annan and Ban issued a statement yesterday condemning “this appalling and brutal crime” and demanding that Syria’s government “immediately cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers.”
The UN now has 271 unarmed military observers for Syria and expects to have a full contingent of 300 there by the end of this month, according to Ban.
Ban cited fears expressed by opposition figures about regime reprisals for cooperating with UN monitors. There are continuing reports of “massive violations of human rights,” including torture and summary executions, he said.
Some Syrians in Homs said authorities threatened to kill them and their family members if they demonstrated or spoke with UN monitors, he said. In Deraa on May 9, a bomb detonated next to a house where five minutes earlier a UN patrol had met with representatives of the Free Syria Army, Ban said.
Separately, the Yemeni army killed 62 militants in fighting yesterday in the southern city of Zanjibar, the country’s defense ministry said on its website. Three government soldiers were killed, according to the statement.
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