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.
    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.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora