News / Middle East

4 Dead as Syrian Troops Shell Massacre Town

Image made from amateur video released by the Houla Media Office and accessed May 31, 2012 purports to show 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed, a survivor of the Houla massacre.
Image made from amateur video released by the Houla Media Office and accessed May 31, 2012 purports to show 11-year-old Ali el-Sayed, a survivor of the Houla massacre.
Carla Babb
Rights activists say Syrian forces have again attacked the central area of Houla where more than 100 people were massacred last week.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told VOA Thursday that three people were killed in overnight shelling by government troops.  He said a 14-year-old boy was killed later by sniper fire.

Damascus-based United Nations spokeswoman Sausan Ghosheh said U.N. monitors based in nearby Homs were traveling to Houla to verify the reports of renewed attacks.

Houla, Syria mapHoula, Syria map
x
Houla, Syria map
Houla, Syria map
U.N. personnel who went to Houla after the May 25 massacre verified the casualties, found evidence of government artillery and tank fire against the town, and heard witness testimony of executions by pro-Assad militiamen, known as shabiha. More than 100 men, women and children were killed.

But a Syrian government spokesman said Thursday that its preliminary investigation into last week's killings showed that "armed groups," not government troops, were responsible. Brigadier General Qassem Suleiman said the victims were families that "refused to rise up against the government."

Oppostion demands

The opposition, which blames the government for the massacre, demanded Syrian forces stop the attacks.

In an Internet statement published Thursday, a commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army gave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a deadline of noon Friday local time to start acting on commitments made to international peace envoy Kofi Annan.

 Annan was discussing the Syrian crisis with Lebanese officials in Beirut Thursday after talks with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman.

Rebel Colonel Qassim Saadeddine said his forces would no longer be bound by the Annan peace plan if the Syrian president fails to comply.

The Free Syrian Army is a loosely-organized and lightly-armed rebel group made largely of Syrian military defectors. The Syrian government and the rebels agreed in April to a truce mediated by Annan, but the fighting has continued, with each side accusing the other of violating the deal.

Analyst James Denselow of King's College in London says it would be a mistake for the Free Syrian Army to cut itself off from the U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

"I think they would be falling into a trap if they were to be the ones who unilaterally declared the cease-fire over," he said, "because that would allow Assad and the regime to say 'well, they broke it, we still believe in it,' despite the fact that they haven't really been properly observing it."

Clinton slams Russia

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham ClintonSecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
x
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that "very strong opposition" from Russia is making it harder to put together an international coalition against President Assad. But she said Washington is not giving up on such a coalition, because "every day that goes by makes the case stronger."

Speaking in Denmark, Clinton also warned that Syria's violence could turn into a regional "proxy war" if not stopped.

"You have Iran deeply embedded in Syria," she said. "Their military are coaching the Syrian military. Their so-called Quds force, which is a branch of the military, is helping them set up these sectarian militias. And, you have Russia continuing to supply them arms."

Russia has repeatedly blocked the U.N. Security Council from taking punitive action against the Assad government, a longtime Russian ally. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that Moscow rejects changing its policy under foreign pressure.

But Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul University told VOA that the Assad government will not in the long run be shielded from prosecution.

"They should know that even though Russia and China are protecting them tomorrow, that if there is a commission that investigates what they're doing and has the evidence, they will not always be immune from prosecution in the future," he said. "And this has to be done now while the evidence is fresh."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin urged the international community to give Annan's plan more time to work.

"Envoy Annan's mediation efforts will not always be smooth sailing and might even meet capriciousness and setbacks; however, we should not lose our faith and patience," he said. "Nor should we give up so soon. We should fully support the mediation efforts of U.N. envoy Annan."

Eli McCarthy, a professor of justice and peace studies at Georgetown University, said he believes Annan's peace plan "is not a failure." But he added that it has not "worked adequately."

"The reality is you have unhealthy habits of violence that have been going on, and those take time to break," McCarthy said. "There's not going to be a quick withdrawal of all violence."

Pressure on government

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonUN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
x
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he "demands" the Syrian government abide by its peace pledges.

Speaking at a forum in Istanbul, Ban said the almost 300-member U.N. military observer team in Syria is not meant to play the role of "passive observer to unspeakable atrocities." He said the monitors were deployed "so that perpetrators of crimes may be held accountable."

The U.N. chief also warned that more massacres such as the Houla incident "could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war ... from which the country would never recover."

U.S. Republican Senator John McCain said Thursday he believes U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to take strong action against the Syrian government.

Speaking during a visit to Malaysia, McCain called the U.S. response "embarrassing" and repeated his appeal for the Syrian rebels to be armed.

Rights groups estimate that about 13,000 people have been killed in Assad's violent crackdown on the uprising that began in March 2011. The Syrian government blames the revolt on foreign-backed armed terrorists whom it says have killed thousands of security personnel.

VOA's Scott Stearns contributed to this story from Denmark, Edward Yeranian from Cairo and David Byrd from Washington.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
May 31, 2012 7:16 PM
The International Criminal Court will sooner or later have a warrant for Assad. Justice will be served, hopefully sooner than later.


by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USa
May 31, 2012 2:44 PM
Shame on my people in the US State Department and the West Wing of the White House for not organizing the Syrian opposition against Assad. If I see anymore dead kids out of Syria I just might flip out! I would have you all flogged if I was in charge. And where is the king of Saudi Arabia? You people should be ashamed of yourself. I am thoroughly disgusted with your response to thi tragedy.


by: Benesophia from: USA
May 31, 2012 2:01 PM
"U.S. Republican Senator John McCain said ...during a visit to Malaysia, ...repeated his appeal for the Syrian rebels to be armed."

They are already being armed by USA/NATO proxies [patsies] from Libya, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi.


by: Michael from: USA
May 31, 2012 9:43 AM
Moscow is not removing obstacles in the path to outside action in Syria on the simple principle that 'strength lies in removing certitude about any type of subject matter'


by: Mr alan Sitier from: UK
May 31, 2012 6:21 AM
Army defectors are cowards, They like the libyans expect the forces of USA Germany France UK to intervenve like they did in Libiya,but that has noit worked at all, Mr Assad is very much correct in what hes is doing, to stopthe civillians getting killed "tell the rebels to STOP" using the local popul;ation as abackdrop to their objectives, first we heard it was the army shelling that killed the 92 people etc then it was "apparently" the militia run by the Goverment lol !! were as plainly you can see that the rebels have done this themselves.


by: Leslie S from: Regional NSW AU
May 31, 2012 5:54 AM
Assad's Government has not followed the Peace agreement and now with so many innocent civilians murdered there will be no ceasefire there will be now all out WAR the middle east will be in flames.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid