News / Middle East

    Syrian Activists: At Least 78 Killed Near Hama

    Anti-government protesters carry the body of Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Hama June 5, 2012. Anti-government protesters carry the body of Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Hama June 5, 2012.
    x
    Anti-government protesters carry the body of Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Hama June 5, 2012.
    Anti-government protesters carry the body of Yaser Raqieh, whom protesters say was killed by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, near Hama June 5, 2012.
    Syrian activists say pro-government militia and security forces have killed at least 78 people, including women and children, in the central province of Hama. They say some of those killed in the villages of al-Kubeir and Maazarif Wednesday were stabbed to death and at least 12 bodies were burned.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said militiamen armed with guns and knives carried out the attack after regular troops had shelled the area.

    The Observatory described a similar pattern of events as recounted from the May 25 Houla massacre in which 108 Syrian civilians were murdered, nearly half of them children. That incident has provoked international outrage.

    Activists called for an immediate investigation. There was no comment from the Syrian government, and events on the ground are difficult to verify as Syria tightly restricts access to international media.

    Meanwhile, senior U.S. officials are warning Syria and its backers that tougher international action against President Bashar al-Assad's government could follow unless Damascus demonstrates "meaningful compliance" with U.N efforts to end the violence.

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday the administration and its allies could soon tighten sanctions against the Syrian government and its leaders. He spoke to representatives from 55 countries gathered in Washington to discuss increasing pressure on Assad and his top officials.

    "Strong sanctions, effectively implemented, aggressively enforced, can help deprive the Syrian regime of the resources it needs to sustain itself and to continue its repression of the Syrian people. Strong sanctions make clear to the Syrian business community and other supporters of the regime, their future is bleak so long as the Assad regime remains in power," he said.

    Geithner said the U.S. would ask, if necessary, to invoke "Chapter 7" of the United Nations charter - a measure that could authorize the use of force. "We, the United States, hope that all responsible nations will soon join in taking appropriate economic actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter 7 action in the U.N. Security Council as called for by the Arab League last weekend," he said.

    Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey listens to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul June 6, 2012.Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey listens to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul June 6, 2012.
    x
    Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey listens to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul June 6, 2012.
    Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey listens to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as they attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Istanbul June 6, 2012.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed Geithner's call to choke the Syrian government's "economic lifelines" as she headed into a strategy session in Istanbul with key regional powers to discuss how to halt the violence in Syria and remove Assad from power.

    Clinton said Wednesday "sanctions are specifically pointed at members of the regime and its war machine - they do not target the Syrian people and do not apply to supplies of critical goods." She said President Assad leaving power is not necessarily a condition for starting a political transition, but that must be its outcome.

    Also Wednesday, U.N. diplomats said international envoy Kofi Annan will present the Security Council with a new proposal later this week to rescue his failing peace plan for Syria, where 15 months of violence have brought the country to the brink of civil war.

    They said Annan's new plan would establish a "contact group" for Syria that would include the five permanent members of the Council and key regional players with influence on Damascus or the opposition, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Iran. The group would attempt to map out a "political transition" leading to Assad's departure and the holding of free elections.

    An unnamed envoy leaked further details of Annan's proposal to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who wrote that if the contact group agreed on a transition deal for Syria, it would mean "Assad would presumably depart for Russia, which is said to have offered him exile." According to Ignatius, Iran is also said to have offered exile to Assad and his family.

    In China, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to follow up on the contact group idea, saying nations exerting influence over Syrian opposition groups should join an international gathering to rescue Annan's faltering cease-fire deal. Russia is a longtime ally of the Assad government and has blamed his opponents for much of Syria's violence. China and Russia issued a statement Wednesday saying they are "decisively" against military intervention in Syria and regime change.

    Secretary Clinton reacted cooly to Lavrov's proposal for a meeting on Syria that would include Iran, saying it is "a little hard to imagine inviting a country that is stage-managing the Assad regime's assault on its people."

    The State Department has said Iran's paramilitary Quds Force is training Syrian militia, like those who Washington believes responsible for last month's killing of civilians in Houla. Clinton meets with Kofi Annan on Friday.

    As Western pressure continues, Assad appointed a loyalist Baath party member as the country's new prime minister Wednesday, the latest step of what the president has called a political reform process. State media said the prime minister-designate, Riad Farid Hijab, will form Syria's next government.

    Snowiss reported from Washington and Stearns from Istanbul.

    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

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora