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 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
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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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