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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid