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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More