News / Middle East

UN Demands End to Battles in Syrian Town of Qusair

A photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, May 22,2013, shows detainees described by SANA as
A photo distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA, May 22,2013, shows detainees described by SANA as "terrorists fighters", a term commonly used to describe rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, Qusair, near Homs.
Lisa Schlein
The U.N. Human Rights Council voted to condemn the Syrian regime's use of foreign fighters in the battle-torn town of Qusair and ordered an urgent probe into deaths there. Thirty-six of the council's 47 member states voted in favor.

The United Nations Human Rights Council went into an emergency session on Syria on Wednesday to debate a draft resolution to end fighting around the strategic town of Qusair.

The draft, referring to Hezbollah, Lebanon’s militant Shi'ite group, condemned the presence of foreign fighters siding with the government of President Bashar al-Assad as a serious threat to regional security.

But Syria's government was not without its supporters.

This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings that were damaged from a Syrian forces air strike in the towThis citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings that were damaged from a Syrian forces air strike in the tow
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This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings that were damaged from a Syrian forces air strike in the tow
This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Syrian citizens inspecting the rubble of damaged buildings that were damaged from a Syrian forces air strike in the tow
Before the proceedings began, the Russian representative objected to holding a special session on Syria, saying the matter could be handled as part of regular business.

But he was quickly overruled and the debate began with a speech by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.  She presented a long list of what she said are human rights violations being committed by both government and rebel forces against civilians.  

“In the run-up to the proposed International Conference on Syria in Geneva, states - especially those with influence on the combatants - must collectively act to stop this dreadful conflict from getting even worse. The collapse of the state of Syria would have devastating consequences, not just for Syrians, but also for the region and the whole world," said Pillay.

The United States, which together with Turkey and Qatar requested the special session, also condemned recent government air strikes of Qusair.  U.S. Ambassador to the council Eileen Donahoe:

“The assault on Qusair is the latest in the regime’s attempt to use sectarian-driven war to divide the Syrian people.  We are deeply concerned about the risks of increasing sectarian violence from all sides.  We condemn Hezbollah’s direct role in the hostilities, a role which enflames regional tensions, escalates violence inside Syria and incites instability in Lebanon," said  Donahoe.

The Syrian ambassador, Faysal Khabbaz Hamaoui, denounced what he called the cynical and biased attitude of council members.  He said no massacres have occurred in Qusair. He accused Jihadist groups of terrorizing the people.

He said Syria helped civilians to leave the town under the protection of Syrian troops.

“It gave the armed people a chance to give up their weapons and to leave the town without harm.  However, some of them under orders from Qatar and Turkey were determined to continue the fight, holding thousands of civilians as human shields," said Hamaoui.

Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday that the U.N. body's debate would hamper efforts to organize a peace conference on Syria. He said he was surprised to see the U.S. among the authors of the resolution, saying it runs contrary to the U.S. pledge to help organize the peace conference.  
  • A boy sells juice near a damaged bus in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, May 30, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters hold weapons at their post in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood, May 29, 2013.
  • Buildings that were damaged during clashes between forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Free Syrian Army fighters, near the Sayeda Zainab area of Damascus, May 29, 2013.
  • Relatives visit a grave at the Shi'ite fighters cemetery in Damascus, May 28, 2013.
  • Shi'ite fighters ride through the Sayeda Zainab area of Damascus with their weapons, May 28, 2013.
  • The inside of a damaged mosque in Dahra Abd Rabbo village, Aleppo, May 27, 2013.
  • U.S. Senator John McCain meets with U.S. troops in southern Turkey, May 27, 2013.  He also visited rebels inside Syria.  This picture was released on his Twitter account.
  • Syrians participate in the funeral prayer for Youssef Ghazi al-Sarmani, who was killed in fighting between rebel and government forces, May 27. The logo in red reads "Talbiseh".
  • A boy makes pastry at a shop in Darkush town, Idlib province, May 26, 2013.
  • A group of men smuggle diesel fuel from Syria to Turkey hoping to sell it at a higher price, across the Al-Assi River in Idlib, May 26, 2013.
  • Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad during clashes against Syrian rebels in Aleppo, May 26, 2013.
  • Supporters and relatives of Hezbollah members attend the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter who died in the Syrian conflict. The funeral took place in the Ouzai district in Beirut, May 26, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds pigeons in Homs, May 26, 2013.

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