News / Middle East

UN Security Council Blames Syria for Houla Massacre

Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
x
Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
Handout photo released by Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network shows UN observers at hospital morgue before their burial in central Syrian town of Houla on May 26, 2012.
Edward YeranianMark Snowiss

CAIRO - The United Nations Security Council Sunday unanimously condemned the Syrian government for last week's brutal massacre of at least 108 people, including many children, in Houla, even as Damascus denied its armed forces were responsible.

 

The 15-nation council said Sunday the attacks "involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood" and again demanded that President Bashar al-Assad withdraw heavy weapons from Syrian towns.

 

The council also "condemned the killing of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse" and said Syria's "outrageous use of force" against its own population is a "violation of applicable international law."

 

The statement, agreed to by Syrian ally Russia, called for those responsible to be held accountable.

 

Earlier Sunday, the U.N. mission chief in Syria told an emergency council session that about 108 people - including 49 children under the age of 10 - were killed in the attack. General Robert Mood, speaking via video-link from Damascus, said another 300 people were wounded in the incident. 

 

U.N. observers had initially counted 92 dead in Houla.

 

International officials have largely blamed the government for Friday's massacre, but Syria has said it was carried out by rebel fighters.

 

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi Sunday called accusations against the Syrian government a "tsunami of lies." Instead, he blamed "hundreds of heavily armed gunmen" who he claimed attacked soldiers.

 

Those troops, he argues, did not leave their positions except to defend themselves during a nine-hour attack, as armed men allegedly burned houses and killed civilians.

 

But U.N. observers confirmed that artillery and tank shells - which only government forces have - were fired at residential areas of Houla, northwest of Homs. In a letter to the Security Council, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also said monitors had observed signs of shotgun wounds on some of the bodies.

 

Activists from Houla say government forces peppered the area with mortar shells after large demonstrations against the government on Friday. They say that evening pro-Syrian fighters known as shabiha stormed Houla's three villages, gunning down men in the streets at point-blank range and stabbing women and children in their homes.

 

The massacre marks the deadliest single attack since Syria's anti-government uprising began about 15 months ago.

 

Images of bloodied and lifeless young bodies, laid carefully side by side after Friday's onslaught, triggered shock around the world and underlined the failure of a six-week-old U.N. cease-fire plan to stop the violence.

 

International envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the peace plan, is expected in Syria on Monday.

 

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said Sunday the "indiscriminate and possibly deliberate" killing of villagers in the Houla area may mount to crimes against humanity or other forms of international crime.

 

Arab and western governments have issued statements expressing outrage and putting the blame squarely on Mr. Assad's government.

 

The White House said it was horrified by credible reports of brutal attacks on women and children in Houla. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton Sunday spoke of a "heinous act perpetrated by the Syrian regime against its own civilian population."

 

Angry protests over the killings continued across parts of Syria on Sunday, including the capital Damascus, where security forces fired on protesters in the Midan district. Demonstrations also took place in the southern city of Daraa.

 

Arab satellite channels showed an amateur video of a resident of that village, Teldau, meeting with a U.N. observer team and complaining about the cruel behavior of government forces.

 

"My God, we are men," he says, "we are men and they are killing us as if we were less than donkeys." "We were created by God," he insists. "Can it be that they are not God-fearing men?”

 

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, says the Syrian government has a long history of using brutality and repression to deal with opposition.

 

He argues the government has a bad habit of using brutal force to put down rebellions, such as the one in Hama in 1982, which killed thousands of people, as well as brutality against prisoners. Abou Diab adds the Assad government has done everything possible to militarize the current conflict and turn it into a sectarian affair in order to remain in power.

 

General Mood urged the government and the opposition to put an end to the violence. He did not directly blame either side for Friday's massacre, but noted government tanks had fired at houses inside one of the villages where the massacre took place.

 

The rebel Free Syrian Army warned it will not adhere to the U.N.-mediated peace plan if the international community does not take concrete actions to protect citizens. The head of the exile Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, also condemned the killings.

 

Makdissi called the Houla assault "brutal" and said the Syrian government has launched an investigation.

 

Syrian troops shelled residential areas Sunday in the central city of Hama, and the rebel-held town of Rastan, killing at least 14 civilians.

 

The United Nations says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the government began its crackdown on dissent in March 2011.

 

 

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.


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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid