News / Middle East

Shots Target UN Monitors in Syria

Special envoy Kofi Annan (left) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Jun 7, 2012
Special envoy Kofi Annan (left) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Jun 7, 2012
Margaret BesheerMark Snowiss
UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON -- The United Nations says its unarmed monitors in Syria were shot at and blocked from investigating the site of a newly reported mass killing, fueling more international condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. General Assembly Thursday that international observers were denied access to the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir in central Hama province and "were shot at with small arms" while trying to get there.

While Mr. Ban did not directly blame Syrian forces for the latest reported atrocity, he harshly criticized what appeared to be a government effort to block monitors from visiting the site of Wednesday's massacre in which at least 78 people were killed, half of them women and children, including 35 members of one family. Some were stabbed and burned.

Kieran Dwyer, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping department, said the observers were forced to turn back and were not injured, although one vehicle was hit and slightly damaged.

Diplomacy Ramps Up

International envoy Kofi Annan, whose peace plan brokered in April has not been implemented, warned against allowing "mass killings to become part of everyday reality in Syria."

Annan urged the divided U.N. Security Council and the rest of the international community to unite and act immediately to intensify pressure, especially on Mr. Assad's government. If things do not change, he warned, Syria will likely face a future of "brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and even all-out civil war" in which "all Syrians will lose." The U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria said Damascus must understand there will be consequences if it does not comply with his six-point peace plan.

Diplomats said Annan proposed that world powers and key regional players, including Iran, come up with a new strategy to end the 15-month conflict at a closed meeting of the Security Council on Thursday. Annan is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday in Washington.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said she did not think Iran was ready to play a constructive role in the Syrian situation, while Russia said Tehran should be a part of any such group. Arab League chief Nabil al-Araby said he would support a contact group if it is action-oriented and could halt the violence. He added that all kinds of pressure, excluding the use of force, should be applied to end the crisis.

Fourth Mass Killing in Last Two Weeks

If confirmed, the Qubeir massacre would be the fourth such mass slaying of civilians in Syria in the last two weeks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government 'shabiha' militiamen armed with guns and knives carried out the attack in Mazraat al-Qubeir after regular troops had shelled the area.

The Syrian government blamed a terrorist group for the violence.

Qubeir, on the outskirts of Hama, is small and mostly Sunni Muslim. Residents said shabiha raided the settlement from two neighboring villages of Alawites, a minority Muslim sect to which the Assad family and high-ranking members of the military and security apparatus belong to.

The White House Thursday accused the Syrian government of orchestrating "the outrageous targeted killings of civilians, including women and children…as reported by multiple credible sources."

Thousands of Syrians have died in attacks and clashes since the cease-fire was put in place, and the presence of hundreds of U.N. observers has not been able to stem the violence.

Clinton Looks Beyond Assad

Speaking Thursday in Istanbul, Secretary Clinton said Mr. Assad has "doubled down on his brutality and duplicity," and that the time has come for a post-Assad Syria. "We have to unite the international community behind a plan that is achievable and keeps faith with those inside Syria who are protesting and demonstrating, suffering and dying for their universal human rights," she said.

The secretary of state told reporters that part of convincing Russia and China of the need to move forward with a political transition is accepting the failure of the Annan cease-fire plan. "In order to bring others into a frame of mind to take action in the Security Council, there has to be a final recognition that it is not working," she said.

In the past week, Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have discussed the political transition in Yemen as a possible model for Syria. Clinton says then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ultimately gave up power because the international pressure, isolation, and sanctions were just too much.

Even as Clinton criticized the Syrian leader, China - one of Mr. Assad’s leading allies along with Russia - reiterated its opposition to any effort to oust him outside the existing Annan plan to end the fighting, seeming to limit prospects for any breakthrough.

Russia and China have blocked strong action against Damascus in the U.N. Security Council. Clinton and Annan are working to get Moscow and Beijing on board with tougher U.N. action against President Assad.

Bob Moog, of North Carolina State University, said Russian interests will need to be taken into consideration for the peace plan to take hold. "It's going to take a realization on the part of the Russians that they are essentially on the losing side, that the Assad regime is not going to survive a civil war in Syria, and that they are going to lose everything if they continue to hold out and fail to cooperate with much of the rest of the world," he said.

Moog also said expectations are low for what the U.N. can do to help the Syrian situation.

The exiled opposition Syrian National Council called on the Free Syrian Army and other armed opposition groups to respond by escalating their resistance. British Prime Minister David Cameron called the reported attack "brutal and sickening." He said that if true, the international community must do more to condemn "absolutely" the government of President Assad.

VOA's Carla Babb and Scott Stearns contributed to this report.

Mark Snowiss

Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Romildo Caldas from: Brazil
June 08, 2012 4:36 PM
Let us continously try to use all means passible to solve this serious international problem. The use of force should never be used, in order to preserve Siria Sovereignty. How Democracy in Siria could be estabilished by Militar Intervention, if Democracy does not accept the use of weapons.?

by: Samir
June 08, 2012 8:42 AM
The Alawi community needs to make a choice. Help get rid of Bashar Assad, the Ba’ath Party and the Shabiha out of Syria now and help build an inclusive democratic Syria that all communities can thrive in or keep supporting a group of baby killers and live with the consequences of your support after the Assad dictatorship falls.

by: Barack Oabma from: Washington
June 08, 2012 4:45 AM
That's real rubbish.Why you can say:"this is a completely massacre and Assad should be punnished."And when the syrians say that they like their goverment then you say nothing?Don't continue to dely that you are not a idiot

by: Anonymous
June 07, 2012 4:35 PM
Sounds like the easy task of a Nato fleet of Drones, not risking any Nato troops, and entirely decimating the Syrian army. Disable them completely, and then see what Assad has to say. He will likely kill himself or run to Russia anyways. For him to run to Iran would be stupid, as there may be a war there in the future as well.

by: Yuzhi from: Singapore
June 07, 2012 1:13 PM
Can support sounds ?

by: sam from: Accra
June 07, 2012 7:00 AM
It surprises me that its always the opposition who get there first to film videos of massacres as and when they take place.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs